Captain Percy Levick

Captain Percy Levick

Percy was born in West Ham, London, in 1873, the son of Dr George and Martha Levick. His father died in 1881 leaving his family unprovided for. Percy gained a Foundation Scholarship to Epsom College in 1886 and proved to be an all-round performer. Amongst his haul of prizes was the Propert prize in 1892, awarded to the boy who had achieved the highest honours during the year.

Percy was also a prominent athlete and sportsman. He was in the first cricket XI for four years and captain for two. He excelled at Fives, being captain and champion, and played in the first hockey XI. He became a prefect in 1891. He won a scholarship to Jesus College, University of Cambridge, where he graduated in natural science in 1895. He continued to excel at sport and played cricket for Jesus College where he was a useful bowler. He also played hockey for Cambridge University.

Percy proceeded to King’s College Hospital, London, where he won the gold medal, the surgery and pathological anatomy prizes, and was awarded a certificate of distinction for hygiene.

After filling the posts of house surgeon and clinical aural assistant at King’s College Hospital, Percy went into practice at Guildford. He worked with Dr Gabb, and became his partner, for nearly twenty years. He was much beloved by all his patients, young and old, for his genial nature and devotion to their care. He was particularly popular with the poor in the area. He was made honorary Medical Officer (MO) of the Royal Surrey County Hospital in 1902 and became Senior MO in 1908. He was also surgeon to the Fire Brigade.

Percy was a keen motorcyclist and around 1911 had a serious accident in which he sustained head injuries which prevented him from working for several months.

When war came, Percy served initially as medical examiner of recruits at Guildford prior to taking a temporary commission as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), attached to 4th Divisional Ammunition Column (DAC). He was posted to France on 21 January 1917.

Percy felt that the facilities for caring for the sick and wounded were inadequate and provided a hospital privately to accommodate about ninety men.

Percy was killed on 15 March 1918 whilst working with the ammunition column near Arras. His horse slipped, fell and threw him beneath a motor lorry.

A correspondent wrote of him ‘One cannot help comparing him with men of long ago like St Francis and St Martin. His loss will be felt as keenly in France as at home. He died as he would have wished – working for the alleviation of the sufferings of others’.

Percy is buried at Anzin-St Aubin British Cemetery on the north-western outskirts of Arras. His friends at home collected £570 for a cot in his memory in the children’s ward in Guildford Hospital.

See further:

https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/collections/getrecord/SHIND_NEWSPAPERS_WW1_9497

https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/collections/getrecord/SHIND_NEWSPAPERS_WW1_9125

https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/collections/getrecord/SHIND_NEWSPAPERS_WW1_9071

https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/collections/getrecord/SHIND_NEWSPAPERS_WW1_68143

https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/collections/getrecord/SHIND_NEWSPAPERS_WW1_23545

https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/collections/getrecord/SHIND_NEWSPAPERS_WW1_37523

Elsie, Baroness De T’Serclaes, Madonna of Pervyse

Written by Richard Hughes

For nearly half a century, between 1930 and 1978, there lived in Ashtead, Surrey Elsie Shapter, Baroness de T’Serclaes, whose heroics on the Western Front during the First World War made her at the time a near-legendary figure. With her colleague, Mairi Chisolm, she ran her own first aid post from the village of Pervyse, near Ypres, for much of the war. She also made frequent visits back to Britain to attend patriotic rallies and raise funds for the war effort. So admired were the two nurses that they were termed the ‘Madonnas of Pervyse’. Some years after the war friends of Elsie, somewhat concerned about her unsettled status at the time, secured for her a Haig home in Ashtead – these were properties made available for veterans of the war – and there she lived happily for the rest of her long life; she died at the age of 94 in 1978. During the war she met and married an aristocratic Belgian airman, the Baron Harold de T’Serclaes and hence she became the Baroness de T’Serclaes. The marriage was short-lived but there was no divorce so Elsie carried her title with pride for the rest of her life.

The Baroness was born into a middle-class family in 1884 but when still a very young child she was orphaned and then adopted by the Upcott family from Marlborough, Wiltshire; her adoptive father, Lewis, was a schoolmaster at Marlborough College. Her adoptive parents were loving and Elsie grew up in an affectionate home. But unlike her parents she was no academic and later pursued a career in midwifery and nursing; she also became one of the first female pioneers of motor-cycling. In 1906 she married Leslie Knocker and a year later gave birth to a son, Kenneth. The marriage was not a success and there was a divorce; so Elsie became a single mother.

Elsie volunteered for nursing duties when war broke out in August 1914. But she did not follow a traditional route. She joined a small, rather eccentric group termed the Flying Ambulance Corps which had been established by a London doctor and social activist, Dr. Hector Munro. The doctor was a pacifist but nevertheless anxious to assist in the war effort in a non-combatant way. He saw the need for a small specialist group who could swiftly move about the battlefield dealing with medical emergencies. There would be ambulances – but also motor-cycles, a particular attraction to Elsie. The unit was based at Ostend and so Elsie moved there in the early stages of the conflict. She soon met Mairi Chisolm, ten years younger than her, and they became close colleagues. Elsie soon became frustrated with the Flying Ambulance Corps for it seemed poorly administered and was lacking funds and equipment. It was, though, getting plenty of attention. The war correspondent, Philip Gibbs [who was knighted after the war and settled in Dorking] wrote: ‘They did not seem to me at first the type of women to be useful on the battlefield. I expected them to faint at the sight of blood and swoon at the bursting of a shell. Some of them were too pretty to play about on the field of war.’ This rather patronising view was soon shown to be inaccurate. But both Elsie and Mairi became frustrated. When a local doctor, Dr. van der Ghist, suggested that they might prefer to establish their own independent unit they jumped at the chance. So in October 1914 in a cellar in a modest property on the edge of the small village of Pervyse near Ypres the two nurses, with the help of the doctor, established their own medical centre; they soon became legends.

By the time Elsie and Mairi moved to Pervyse there had been considerable developments in the course of the war in Belgium. Germany had invaded Belgium as part of its Schlieffen Plan to remove France swiftly from the war so that forces could concentrate on the threat of Russia. Under the leadership of King Albert the Belgians had offered tougher resistance than expected, and the British had arrived to support them in their struggle. In due course the number and strength of the German invaders meant the Belgians had been forced back to the coast and the significant city of Ypres, briefly captured by the Germans but soon retaken, was an isolated British-controlled centre with Germans occupying large stretches of the surrounding terrain. Pervyse, close to Ypres and on the road to the crucial coast, found itself at the centre of military activity. In November 1914 King Albert made the decision to open the sluice gates of the Yser canal at Nieuwpoort and so flood much of the terrain between the town of Dikksemuide and the coast. This halted the German advance but it did mean that the warring factions were locked into a smaller terrain and much activity became based on the need to take control of the Belgian coast.

Each day from the base in Pervyse Elsie and Mairi went out onto the battlefield to deal with the injured. If possible these would be brought back to Pervyse for treatment; if injuries were serious the casualties would be transported back to the coast and where necessary returned to Britain. Sometimes the ‘Madonnas of Pervyse’ would take care of Germans found on the field of battle and serve them hot drinks. Elsie mentioned in her memoirs that from time to time there was an extraordinary camaraderie on the battlefield. “At all big holiday times like Christmas and Easter,” she wrote, “we would shout across greetings; friendly, facetious insults to the Germans, and they would reply in kind. To add to the fun the Germans would sometimes hoist placards on long poles with such phrases as ‘The British are bloody fools’. These would be riddled with bullets. Next might appear ‘the Germans are idiots’ and, of course, this sentiment would be heartily applauded and then would appear ‘Let’s all go home’ and there would of course be great applause and laughter and a general feeling of mateyness.” But these incidents did not hide the fact that Pervyse was a living hell on earth. Sometimes the village was evacuated and reluctantly Elsie and Mairi would retreat to the relative security of the coast. These occasions increased when the Germans introduced gas warfare into the conflict.

Elsie would regularly return to England to tell the story of her life at Pervyse or address large rallies to encourage support for the war effort. She sometimes took with her battlefield debris which would be sold to raise funds. Elsie rather relished these opportunities to appear in public – Mairi did not; because of this Elsie became a much more recognisable ‘Madonna of Pervyse’ than her more reclusive partner. It has to be said that Elsie did have a tendency to play down the importance of Mairi and it is noticeable how few references there are to her partner in her autobiography ‘Flanders and Other Fields’ published in 1964.

In November 1914 Elsie met the Baron Harold de T’Serclaes. He was an airman with the Belgian Aviation Unit who flew missions over the battlefield to obtain photographic evidence of German troop movements. He was a member of one of the most senior aristocratic families in Belgium. There was an immediate mutual attraction between he and Elsie and the courtship was swift. They married in January 1915. Elsie was 30 years of age and the Baron was 26. The significance of the Baron and the fame of Elsie is indicated by the fact that the King and Queen of the Belgians attended the wedding ceremony at La Panne, as did the commanding officer of the Belgian army, General Jacques. Clouds, though, were on the horizon; while the royal family might have attended the wedding the immediate family of the Baron did not; in addition, Elsie stated on the marriage certificate that she was a widow; she was not – she was a divorcee. The de T’Serclaes was a strictly Roman Catholic family; there was an immediate problem with the marriage.

As time went by the reputation of the medical unit at Pervyse grew and famous visitors were attracted to the village. The King and Queen of the Belgians were visitors; so too was Marie Curie; and the British Leader of the Opposition, Ramsay Macdonald, called in. In 1916 was published a book by Geraldine Mitton entitled ‘The Cellar House of Pervyse’ which sold in large numbers. Elsie was delighted with this positive publicity. She was less pleased with ‘Young Hilda At the War’ by Arthur Gleason. He was an American journalist who spent some time at Pervyse where his wife helped with chores around the medical unit. In his book he managed to place his wife at the centre of affairs and Elsie and Mairi were little more than secondary characters. Elsie’s view of this book can be imagined.

In 1917 there were huge developments in the war around Ypres. Field Marshal Douglas Haig proposed a new offensive to break the German line. The focus of this offensive would be a village close to Pervyse, Passchendaele. Elsie and Mairi were informed by the infantry commander, Sir Henry Rawlinson, they would need to leave Pervyse while preparations for the advance took place. Elsie strongly objected, making the obvious point that in a new offensive the services of the unit would be more needed than ever. Rawlinson then agreed that the withdrawal would be temporary and that once the offensive was underway the nurses could return to Pervyse.

Passchendaele, of course, became another military disaster and it was eventually impossible to maintain the unit at Pervyse. In March 1918 Elsie was seriously injured in a gas attack; she was sent at first to Boulogne and then back home to England. Her war was over. Mairi continued for a little longer but the unit was closed down in April 1918 and she too returned to England. There was a particularly poignant fatality as a consequence of Passchendaele. Elsie had a pet Airedale terrier called Shot who had remained close to her throughout the time at Pervyse. Shot too was gassed by the Germans. She wrote: ‘My little dog Shot who has been with us for three years came up and looked at me with wandering eyes. He licked my hand and then died. I don’t think I have ever felt I hated the enemy but ever since my dog was gassed I’ve wanted to, I’ve longed to, kill a German.’ [There are memorial statues of Elsie and Mairi together with Shot in the garden of the Ariane hotel in Ypres].

At the time of the Armistice in November 1918 Elsie, by now fully recovered, was keen to remain involved in matters connected with the military; Mairi was not so inclined and returned to Scotland where she led a quiet life until her death in 1981 at the age of 85. Elsie joined the new Women’s Royal Air Force and became an officer. She tired of this and made an imaginative and brave career change. She set up a company, the British Warriors Film Company, whose purpose was to make films about the war which would feature veterans of the conflict. The idea was to both keep in peoples’ memory the sacrifice made by so many and also, more practically, provide employment for discharged veterans. Despite the honourable intentions the idea met with firm opposition particularly from the influential Horatio Bottomley, politician and owner of the John Bull magazine. For no clear reason Bottomley took against Elsie and her project. He claimed she had no business experience and there was every likelihood investors would lose their money. It is true that a number of initiatives were established after the war to help war veterans re-establish themselves and many were ill thought-out and poorly managed. But Bottomley was hardly the man to take action here. It soon transpired that he had funded a lavish lifestyle through fraud, mainly the mis-use of funds raised through the War Bonds he had promoted during the war; he was jailed and spent his final years in penury and disgrace.

Elsie pursued a number of less than satisfactory projects after the failure of the film project; she was a commercial traveller, a hotel manager, a housekeeper for a wealthy businessman; in 1926 there was a brief return to the limelight when she opened a medical unit in Poplar during the General Strike. In 1930 a group of her friends, somewhat concerned by the restless nature of her life, lobbied for her to be provided with a Haig home; these were properties funded in memory of Earl Haig which were made available to veterans of the war. Elsie was thus provided with a cottage in Park Road, Ashtead, just off the High Street, which she named ‘Pervyse Cottage’. She lived there happily for the rest of her long life, dying in 1978 at the age of 94. She became fully involved in the community of Ashtead. During the Second World War she trained female ambulance drivers and joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

Elsie knew that in her busy life she had not paid enough attention to her son, Kenneth, who had been brought up by his adoptive grandparents while Elsie had been in Belgium. But Kenneth grew into a young man she could be proud of; he pursued a career in the RAF and at the outbreak of the Second World War was a Wing Commander. Sadly he was killed in 1941 when he was shot down over France while returning from a bombing mission. Elsie’s wartime marriage to the Baron de T’Serclaes was short-lived. After a brief period together in London they went their separate ways but there was no divorce. As a prominent Roman Catholic the Baron did not contemplate this. So Elsie proudly carried her title with her throughout her life. The politics of Baron de T’Serclaes took an ominous turn. He had a number of business interests in Germany which led him into supporting Belgian-German co-operation. When hostility between the two countries broke out again in the late 1930s the Baron became involved in collaboration activities against Belgian resistance. Indeed he performed services for the Gestapo. After the war he was sentenced to death for treason but the sentence was reduced to twenty years imprisonment. He never served the sentence for he escaped to Italy where he lived in secrecy for the rest of his life, dying sometime in the middle of the 1950s. Elsie rarely mentioned him and when asked would say he had died during the First World War. Elsie’s autobiography, ‘Flanders And Other Fields’ was published in 1964. At the end of her long life she admitted ‘Only in time of war have I found any real sense of purpose and happiness.’

Other reading:
Flanders and Other Fields, The Baroness de T’Serclaes, Harrap 1964
Elsie and Marie Go To War, Diane Atkinson, Random House 2000

Arthur (1869-1918) and Iona Davey (1870-1945), Liberals and Women’s Suffrage Supporters

I noticed during my research at Surrey History Centre that Hon. Mr Arthur Jex Davey and his wife were cropping up in newspaper reports of the meetings of the Godalming Women’s Suffrage Society and felt that this interesting political couple needed investigation.

Arthur Jex Davey was born in Kensington in 1869, the son of Sir Horace Davey and Louisa Hawes Davey (née Donkin). He was Chairman of the Weaving Company and set up the Mills Equipment Company of which he was a director in 1906. This company made the webbing belts, straps and haversacks which became standard in the British Army from 1908. He was a member of the Clothworkers Company. He took on many public roles such as the governorship of the Central Foundation Schools in London and the chairmanship of the Gordon Hospital, Bridge Road, Vauxhall. His father Sir Horace was a Liberal and was one of the hundred people present at the opening of Wonersh Village Liberal Club in 1887. He had been brought up in a family which held liberal political views and it is not a surprise that Arthur Jex Davey became active in local Liberal politics.

Arthur Jex Davey married Mary Iona Fothergill Robinson (known as Iona) at Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, London, in June 1894. Iona was the daughter of the Vice Chancellor of Lancashire, William Fothergill Robinson.

The couple moved to ‘Ockford House’, Milford, in 1907 with their two young daughters Iona Hildegarde and Julia Christobel.

Arthur had political ambition and was adopted as Liberal Candidate in the Guildford Division in 1910. However, he was defeated by the Unionist candidate William Edgar Horne in December 1910. Following this he turned his attention to municipal affairs, in 1912 he was voted on to the Godalming Town Council and served as Mayor of Godalming 1915-1916. He continued to stand as Liberal Candidate but resigned from his candidacy at the outbreak of war in 1914. He was also president of the Godalming and District Liberal Association.

Iona also took an active part in local and national politics; she was president of the Women’s Liberal Association and secretary of the Women’s Local Government Society, as well as campaigning for women’s suffrage. During the First World War, as the mayor’s wife, she raised funds for both the Red Cross and the St John’s Ambulance, she was also a committee member of the Godalming Division of the Soldiers and Sailors Families Association (Lady Jekyll [Agnes] and Alison Ogilvy were also committee members).

Both Arthur and Iona were active branch members and supporters of the Godalming Women’s Suffrage Society, promoting the cause in meetings of both the Liberal Party and the local suffrage societies.

A column in the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) newspaper Common Cause that listed forthcoming meetings noted that on the afternoon of 19 October 1911 Lord Lytton would speak on suffrage at Watts Picture Gallery, Compton, near Guildford, at the invitation of Mrs G F Watts, President of the Godalming Branch. Lady Midleton would be in the chair. Lord Lytton would also speak the same evening at meeting chaired by Miss D [Dorothy] Hunter and Mr A [Arthur Jex] Davey, to be held at Godalming Borough Hall. The meeting at Compton was a success, attended by 200 people including some “Antis”, and 11 new members were recruited (Common Cause, 9 November 1911).

On 23 March 1913 Common Cause gave advance notice of a meeting on women’s suffrage to be held in the Borough Hall, Godalming, at which the speakers were Hon. Arthur Davey, Rev. A H Fletcher, A R Heath, Sir William Chance, Lady Betty Balfour, Alison Ogilvie, T C [Ogilvy], Miss Aston, Miss D Hunter and Miss Hay Cooper.

The Godalming Women’s Liberal Association held a meeting at the Liberal Club on “Liberalism and Anti-suffrage Candidates” (Surrey Advertiser 31/3/1913) where Iona Davey was one of the speakers, she pointed out in her address that women in the party should not support Anti-suffrage Liberal candidates in the forthcoming election. A motion in favour of this view was passed.

The Surrey Advertiser 21 July 1913 reported on a Liberal Party meeting in Guildford at which Arthur Davey answered questions on the “Cat and Mouse” Act. He commented that it was a “disagreeable remedy” for a problem which some people would prefer be solved by suffragettes being allowed to starve and die in prison. He believed that the women should not be allowed to die because that was wrong and that the government had little choice. He said that he supported the aim of the suffrage campaigners but not the methods of the suffragettes.

The Mayor of Godalming, Alderman E Bridger, was in the chair for a debate held at Borough Hall, Godalming on the subject of “Why Godalming Women want the vote”. The debate was organised by Godalming Branch NUWSS and speakers from the local Anti-suffragists were invited. However, Lady Midleton, Miss Aston and Mr A R Heath sent letters of apology (Miss Aston and Mr Heath were invited to the meeting to represent the case for the anti-suffragists). The Godalming Branch NUWSS decided to continue with the debate and set out to make the case for women’s suffrage by answering the arguments and assertions made by anti-suffragists. Arthur Jex Davey was among the speakers, challenging the argument that women were unsuited for politics, saying that in his experience of politics there was nothing that a woman could not do. He said that women were complimentary to men and asserted that both men and women did their best work when working together (Surrey Advertiser, 7 April 1913).

One of the NUWSS’s most spectacular mobilisation of support for their cause known as The Great Pilgrimage passed through Godalming and was reported by Surrey Advertiser on 21 and 23 July 1913 The 150 pilgrims who had already walked from Portsmouth left Haslemere on 21 July and arrived in Witley in time for lunch at ‘Great Roke’. They then continued to Milford, where they had tea at ‘Ockford House’ at the invitation of Hon Mrs A Davey [Iona Davey]. The report lists some of the names of the local suffrage supporters who met the marchers. These names include Lady Chance, Lady Scott Moncrief, Miss Scott Moncrief, Hon Mrs Arthur Davey, Mrs G F Watts, Mrs Dixon, Mrs Osgood, Miss Meugens, Mrs Redhead, Miss Ogilvy, Mrs [Miss T] W Powell, Miss Burnett, Mrs Overton, Miss Mellersh, Misses Beddington, Mrs Pollock, Mrs G T Pilcher and others. The local overnight hosts were Lady Chance, Hon Mrs A Davey, Miss Franklin, Mrs Overton, Miss Powell, Mrs Dixon and Mrs G T Pilcher. Iona Davey was one of the pro-suffrage speakers at an open-air meeting in Godalming later in the evening of 21 July 1913.

A meeting of the Home Counties Union of the Women’s Liberal Association was held in Guildford (reported in the Surrey Advertiser 19 November 1913) chaired by Iona Davey with support from Lady Jardine and Alison Ogilvy on the subject of women’s role and position in the Liberal Party. A speech from F D Acland MP said that women’s suffrage was not achievable in the current parliament. In an address from Eva MacLaren the women were urged to support the adoption of pro-suffrage candidates as women in the party would not support anti-suffrage candidates in the Liberal party and would rather see Tories elected. Arthur Davey also addressed the meeting.

Iona addressed the first meeting of the Wonersh and Bramley Women’s Liberal Association at the end of November (Surrey Advertiser 1 December 1913).

In 1916 the Davey’s moved from Godalming to Abbots Wood in Guildford and Arthur stood down as Mayor and from his seat on Godalming Town Council. In 1917 Arthur retired from his company and became Deputy Director of Army Contracts. Sadly, a year later whilst returning to England on the mailboat RSM Leinster, following an official visit to Ireland in the capacity of his work at the War Office, the vessel was hit by a torpedo and sunk by a German submarine UB-123 on 10 October 1918. Arthur was one of the 501 out of 650 people on board who lost their lives. There is a memorial to him next to his parent’s grave in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Forest Row, and he is also remembered on a plaque to commemorate the war dead members of the Wonersh Liberal Club. The Surrey Advertiser published an obituary on 12 October 1918 and the Times 22 October 1918.

Contributed by Miriam Farr.

Sources

Surrey Advertiser, Times and Common Cause newspapers, accessed via British Newspaper Archive online, via Surrey Libraries Online Reference shelf available at Surrey History Centre

See a photograph of the Wonersh Village Club Memorial Plaque for members of the Wonersh & Bramley Liberal Club, including Arthur Jex Davey, on the Surrey in the Great War project website https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/collections/getrecord/SHMEM_W_M_3042

See Godalming Museum’s information page on Arthur Jex Davey at http://www.godalmingmuseum.org.uk/index.php?page=arthur-jex-davey

The Royal Mail Archive’s story of RMS Leinster can be seen online at https://www.postalmuseum.org/blog/the-centenary-of-the-sinking-of-rms-leinster/

The Impact of WW1 on the Lingfield and Dormansland Area in 1914

Research and text contributed by the RH7 History Group

During the period of WW1 radio was in its infancy and newspapers were one of the main means of reporting news and also communicating official information and instructions.  Both the Surrey Mirror and The East Grinstead Observer continued to be published weekly during the war.  The main theatres of the war and national events were covered but from the point view of the impact of the war on the local area the two publications are a rich source of information.  Reports of events in the RH7 area are usually brief, however the ‘snippets’ which were found give an insight into the life ‘on the home front’.


Preparations for War
In the months before August no mention of war was found in the local papers, although contingencies were quietly being put in place.  On 25 July The East Grinstead Observer reported on a Red Cross Field Day held at Imberhorne Farm.  A rest station was prepared ‘near an imaginary battle’ and Territorials in battle kit acted as ‘eounded’, while stretcher bearers administered first-aid and dressed wounds.

The declaration of war on 4 August 1914 initially did not have a great impact on daily life.  The Surrey Mirror edition on the same day carried a cautious report on Britain’s involvement in war.  By the 11 August edition on the same day reported that all doubts were now removed and ‘we know that practically the whole of Europe is in the grip of war…the Fleet is ready and the army mobilising.’

Once war was declared, however, it did not take long for things to step up a gear and for the public to get behind the war effort.  Territorials guarded lines of communication.  Important sections of practically every railway line in the country were guarded, especially lines between Southampton, Aldershot, Chatham and London over which troops might have to be conveyed.

Locally Boy Scouts were posted to guard the viaduct bridge over Cooks Pond, Dormans Park.

Advertisements appeared in the papers for Army pensioners to act as Recruiters and by September the British Red Cross was asking for bandages, instructing people to boil the calico before tearing, leaving no selvedges; the length and width were to be marked with ink and fastened with safety pins.

The Lingfield Emergency Committee was formed.  ‘All the chief residents, farmers, tradesmen and many members of the working class were invited to serve’.  The committee would deal with recruiting, relief, food supply and other urgent matters.  There were appeals for aid for wives and families of soldiers and it was recorded that Lingfield Church gave £25 to the Prince of Wales Fund.  On 25 November the Dormansland school log reported that the children would give an entertainment in aid of the National Relief Fund; this took place in December and raised £13 2s. 11.5d.

Spy Mania
In October 1914, the Surrey Mirror reported that ‘a suspicious foreigner’ was found wandering in a field at Lingfield.  Karl Horvath, aged 18, was unable to give a good account of himself and was remanded; there was no report of what happened to him subsequently.

Alarming stories began to circulate in the local papers.  The Surrey Mirror reported that on Sunday 9 August a troop train near South Godstone was fired at and several windows smashed, although no-one was injured.  From the train four men were seen in a field on the east side of the line.  Three shots were fired at which the men then jumped into a motor car and drove away.  The train was pulled up and Territorials stationed at Redhill, together with police and motor scouts scoured the surrounding country.  ‘Residents in the neighbourhood joined warmly in the chase, one gentleman lending powerful motor car and also guns for six men to go with it.  But it was all in vain and those who man the attack got clean away.’  The next day an attempt was made to fire at Territorials on guard at the L.B. & S.C. Railway loop line at Holmthorpe just outside Redhill .  Sentries fired a round or two and called out the guard.  Two men were seen running away from the embarkment and a search was made but no-one was found.

At about the same time come reports of a troop train being fired upon at Edenbridge.  A rifle bullet was found in the woodwork of a carriage.  The police description of the suspect was circulated as someone ‘tall and dark with a sallow complexion and dark moustache’.  It is not clear what these reports meant but there has been some suggestion that these stories were a deliberate invention with the intention of keeping troops and Territorials on their toes.

Enlisting
Long lists of men who had enlisted were printed.  On 5 September 1914 the East Grinstead Observer reported an appeal from the vicar of East Grinstead for men to join up.  He expressed his hope that the rugby club would join up and cancel games as ‘this was no time for young able-bodied men to be playing or watching games’.  The scoutmaster for the 1st Lingfield and Dormansland troop. Captain Henry Lloyd Martin enlisted; he was later to be killed at the Battle of the Somme.  The scouts from Lingfield and Dormansland competed against the Oxted and Limpsfield scouts in a shooting match.  Several of the scouts taking part went on to enlist: assistant scountmaster Henry Cox became a gunner in the Royal Artillery; Arthur Potter and Albert Friend joined the Royal West Kent Regiment and George Skinner joined the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment.

Patriotism
Patriotic verses written by readers were published each week in the Surrey Mirror; these started off by being very jingoistic:
Still shall she rule the waves
Crushing usurping power…
but within weeks become much more sombre:
O God of our fathers hear our prayer
In this dark hour of strife…

National Loans meetings were held in Lingfield and Blindley Heath.  In Lingfield the meeting was chaired by Mr Gow of Batnor Hall; the Lingfield Band played patriotic airs and three cheers were given for ‘our soldiers in the trenches’.  At the Blindley Heath meeting the cry was ‘every man of military age and medically fit who has not joined the Colours must ask himself the question – why do I not enlist?’

Life goes on as Usual
On Saturday 1 August the annual church parade at Lingfield took place.  Taking part were the Fire Brigade, Friendly Societies with banners and sashes; the Lingfield and Dormansland Boy Scouts; the Copthorne Prize Band, the Dormansland Institute Band and Lingfield Band.  In September the Lingfield Harvest Festival went ahead as usual.  At Christmas Aladdin was playing at the Croydon Hippodrome.  Aladdin, played by Miss Lillie Lassae, encouraged the audience to help her with “Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers” and “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”.

In October, Lingfield Park Racecourse announced that the first autumn meeting would be held as usual.  It was felt that if it was stopped it would mean hardship for those employed.  Also if ‘the interest of owners is allowed to wane there would be serious blow to horse-breeding and the supply of animals to the army would be severely affected.  There should be no false sentiment about the propriety of holding the races’.  It was announced that all serving officers of army and navy were welcome to the course and enclosure free of charge.  Wives and daughters of members away serving in the forces would be allowed to use the member’s badge.

Food
There were official warnings against the hoarding of food but it seems that these appeals were generally ignored by the general public.  At the outbreak of war panic buying broke out and shops such as Sainsbury’s issued notices to the effect that its regular customers would be kept supplied.  The requisitioning of delivery horses by the army also affected distribution to Sainsbury’s branches and customers were asked to carry smaller parcels home themselves.

Demon Drink
By September it was recommended that due to the large numbers of troops billeted in East Grinstead the sale of intoxicating liquor was to be restricted.  The sale of alcohol was therefore suspended between 9pm and 9am.  The Government had grave concerns about the amount the public were drinking and was especially worried about the amount of beer munitions workers were drinking.  There followed new national regulations allowing the watering of beer.  This becomes known as ‘Government Ale’.  A line from a popular music hall song of the time went:
…But the worst thing that ever happened in this war
Is Lloyd George’s Beer.

The British Red Cross issued a warning to chauffeurs in charge of convalescent soldiers out for an airing in private motors who had been seen stopping off at public houses and treating the men to a drink.  It was requested that anyone seeing cases of this kind should report it to any Red Cross Convalescent Home in the neighbourhood.

Fuel
During the autumn and winter of 1914 supplies of fuel and light were curtailed, street lamps dimmed and no lines of light were permitted.

Events in Belgium
After the German invasion of Belgium many of the population were displaced.  By December the Surrey Mirror had started a weekly column in French for the benefit of the local influx of Belgian refugees.  Accommodation was offered in many places; locally The Colony (now Young Epilepsy) in St Piers Lane offered places for 36 refugees.

 

For information on the Lingfield and Dormansland covering the rest of the war years click the following links:

1915

1916

1917

1918

 

The Impact of WW1 on the Lingfield and Dormansland Area in 1918

Research and text contributed by the RH7 History Group

During the period of WW1 radio was in its infancy and newspapers were one of the main means of reporting news and also communicating official information and instructions.  Both the Surrey Mirror and The East Grinstead Observer continued to be published weekly during the war.  The main theatres of the war and national events were covered but from the point view of the impact of the war on the local area the two publications are a rich source of information.  Reports of events in the RH7 area are usually brief, however the ‘snippets’ which were found give an insight into the life ‘on the home front’.

 

Trials of Daily Life
In February 1918 the Daily Mail bemoaned the fact that ‘servants of any kind are becoming unobtainable and therefore the daily task of the housewife are becoming more difficult.  They have to spend hours going from shop to shop, waiting their turn to be served and then not being able to obtain the food they required’.  Where, the paper asked, the National Kitchens that had been promised?  Labour shortages are a constant problem and women continue to take over from their menfolk.

Fuel
Fuel continued to be in short supply.  During the war years Lingfield Primary School experienced shortages of coal for its fires, whereby only two classrooms in the school heating.  By 16 January attendance at Lingfield was low as mothers were not sending their children to sit in cold classrooms and by 10 February so many children were suffering from colds that the school closed.  It remained for another week.

Illness
Lingfield School, which had been closed since 22 October due to an epidemic of influenza, re-opened on 13 November.  During this time the influenza had affected teachers and children alike.  Two boys died and one teacher was gravely ill.

Lingfield Mixed School Log Book (SHC ref 3361)

Food
By April, meat, butter, cheese and margarine were added to the list of rationed food.  The National Egg Collection scheme, providing eggs for the troops, has been so successful that there was now a national egg shortage at home.  Towards the end of the year, the Government allowed a special allotment of sugar for jam making to those who grew their own fruit.  In the Lingfield area alone there were 3,000 applications which had to be dealt with.  The East Grinstead Observer described this as an ‘arduous piece of work’.  Schoolchildren were recruited to pick blackberries for the jam industry and the Education Authority agreed to any holiday necessary for the children to do their part.  The children were given a half holiday in September 1918 that the older children went BlackBerrying on Dry Hill and Smithers farm.  The total return pick was 389lbs (half a tonne).

Some Light Relief
‘A Special Matinee Concert’ was advertised, to be held at the Whitehall Theatre, East Grinstead the September of 1918 in aide of the British Red Cross.  Many ‘celebrated London Artistes’ agreed to perform, including Mrs Lillie Langtry.

Troops – high morale for some
Private S.H. Turner of Newchapel wrote very cheerful letters.  ‘We have just finished giving Johnny Turk one of the greatest hidings he ever had.  We have been in action for three days…there is no danger at all compared to that in France; we are all as happy as sandboys’.  One suspects that this sentiment was not felt by many troops.

Help for the Troops
The East Grinstead Observer reported that by December the East Grinstead district contributed 121,127 eggs for the National Egg Collection Scheme since March 1915.  Nationally over seven million eggs had been sent to UK hospitals and over 25 million eggs to hospitals abroad,  The Lingfield Parish magazine reported that the village headed the list of all Surrey village, raising £167.5s. over the past 11 months for the Surrey Prisoners of War (POW) Fund. 1,000 parcels were sent every five days to POWs (mainly the Queen’s).

Example of a parcel:
1 tin corned beef            1/2lb cocoa        1 tin dripping          1 tin milk
20 cigarettes                  8oz soap              1 tin Irish Stew       1/2lb sugar
1 tin sardines                 1lb biscuits

The Armistice 11 November
In the Surrey Mirror of 15 November there was a muted report of the armistice which had taken place a few days before no banner headlines or pictures.  The paper continued to record the names of those killed in action.  The log for The Colony school simply recorded on 12 November gave a long report about a torchlight procession in Lingfield.  It was headed by the Fire Brigade and followed by the Boy Scouts.  After patriotic speeches the celebration ended with the burning of an effigy of that ‘Blighter Kaiser Bill’ ad three cheers for the King.  A torchlight procession also took place in Reigate.

‘All over by Christmas’ was the initial response to the war but after four years life for everyone had changed forever.

 

For information on the Lingfield and Dormansland covering the rest of the war years click the following links:

1914

1915

1916

1917

Dorothy Oakley

Research and text contributed by the RH7 History Group

Dorothy Oakley is the only woman [so far] found in [the RH7] villages who [is known] to have done war work, in her case, nursing. There are possibly others but unfortunately women’s records in many cases were not kept or were later subjected to a ‘sweeping clear out’ such as that in the 1930s.

She was born in Kensington in 1871. Her father was a Land Agent. In 1911 she was living by ‘private means’ in Glebe Cottage, Vicarage Road, Lingfield. She was unmarried.

In 1914 she became a member of the Lingfield Emergency Committee and the Chairman of the Hospital and Convalescence Sub-Committee. In January 1915 she announced her resignation as she was about to leave to nurse in Serbia as a VAD. When the Emergency Committee was wound down in 1919 there was acknowledgement of Dorothy’s war service in the Balkans.

In 1958 she lived at The Laurels, Dormansland, and died in The Larches Nursing Home, East Grinstead. She is buried in the Lower Churchyard of the parish church of St Peter and St Paul.

 

Memorial to Guildford’s 9th Congregational Scout Troop.

The 9th Guildford Congregational Scout Troop was formed in 1909 and met in the Centenary Hall in Chapel Street (what was more recently the Loch Fyne Restaurant).  The troop was linked with the Congregational Church which was sited on the corner of North Street and Leapale Road, Guildford.

During the war, along with other troops in the area, members of the 9th Congregational Troop were active in the community. For example, the Surrey Times and County Express reported on 18th September 1915 on a memorial service for three soldiers  which was attended by scouts including those from the 9th Congregational Troop. They state that ‘boy scouts, by reason of the excellence of their training, have proved their worth in the Great War’.

On 25th November 1916, the paper reported on a church parade of 9th Congregational Scouts held just before their scoutmaster left to take up work with the Red Cross in France. ‘Mr H V Jeffery….. was presented with a silver wristwatch on behalf of the scouts’. Harold Vivian Jeffery’s VAD card shows that he lived in 137 High Street, Guildford and  was 33 when he was engaged by the Red Cross as an ambulance driver at Boulogne. He earned 35 shillings at that time but, by the time his service ended in January 1919, his pay had risen to 41 shillings.

Another article on 25th November 1916 reported that 6000 troops were expected to be billeted in Guildford. This caused much excitement in the town because lighting restrictions, in place because of the fear of zeppelin attacks, were to be lifted. The paper tells of an advance party of 600 troops being served refreshments at Guildford station then ’marched to North Street where they were escorted to their billets by boys of 1st and 9th Scouts.’

It is thought that 83 former members of the troop together with 9 officers and scout leaders served in the forces. Of these, 11 were to die during the conflict. They were all between the ages of 18 and 22.

Clayton, W.V.

9th Congregational Scout Memorial, Guildford - 'Be prepared'

Title: 9th Congregational Scout Memorial, Guildford - 'Be prepared'
Description: Shows part of the memorial only - with scout motto. Photo taken by Moira Nairn by-nc

Facer, W.G.

Fisher, R

Greenway, A.J

Greenway, A.N.*

Jewesbury,M

Manning, R.C.

Prevett, G

Prior, W.E.

Richards, T

More information on each individual is recorded elsewhere on the site. They are listed on a memorial, now located in Holy Trinity Church Guildford.

The original memorial was dedicated in October  1919 by General Ellis and was sited in Centenary Hall.  The grey alabaster shield has, at the top, the Scout Fleur de Lis and the motto ‘BE PREPARED’.   Poignantly, at the bottom, is the scout trail sign for ‘Gone Home’.

9th Congregational Scout Memorial, Guildford - 'Gone Home'

Title: 9th Congregational Scout Memorial, Guildford - 'Gone Home'
Description: Shows part of the memorial sited now in Holy Trinity Church Guildford. Photo: Moira Nairn by-nc

Now badly pitted but with the names still legible, the memorial was re-dedicated on October 12 1991 after Alderman Bernard Parke  had found the memorial stored and campaigned for its preservation.  Dr Kenneth Stevenson agreed that it be placed in its present position in Holy Trinity Church. The dedication service was attended by several former scouts.

* Although shown on the memorial as ‘A.N.’, it should read ‘A.H’. The Greenaways both named were brothers.

My thanks to Bernard Parke for bringing the story of the scouts and their memorial to our attention and to Sarah Best for carrying out the biographical research.

Bibliography

Surrey Times and County Express, 3rd Edition, 18th September 1918, P6, Col C.

Surrey Times and County Express, 3rd Edition, 18th November 1916, P5, Col D.

Surrey Times and County Express, 25th November 1916, P5, Col B.

David Rose, The Guildford Dragon, 27th November 2011

David Rose and Bernard Parke, Guildford Remember When, Breedon Books 2007.

British Red Cross, First World War Volunteers https://vad.redcross.org.uk/

Images

Imperial War Museum War Memorials Register  – https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/23305   (Copyright Mike Dawson (WMR-23305))

Other images: Moira Nairn

 

Epsom Grandstand War Hospital

Research and text by Nigel Fryatt

History of the Grandstand Hospital

At the meeting of the Grand Stand Association in Ely Place in London on 2nd December 1913, the committee passed a motion to accept the tender submitted by Messrs Copley Brothers of Epsom (Gibraltar House, High Street) to undertake the erection of the new Luncheon Annex at the back of Epsom Racecourse Grandstand, for the cost of £13,943. It was the lowest bid that the committee received[1]. The committee was chaired by H. M. Dorling. The contract was signed the following day. The Annex was completed in April 1914, to cater for the spring race meeting and the Derby in the first week of June 1914. On completion of the building, the Times Newspaper reported on 16th April that:

The building is about 180 feet long by 32 deep, and is fireproof throughout, with concrete reinforced floors on the armoured tubular flooring system. Water is obtained from a well below the building 360 feet deep, and there is an underground fire tank holding 36,000 gallons. There is electric lighting and hot-water heating throughout.[2]

The building runs parallel to the back of the Grand Stand and is connected via a bridge. It is designed by Charles Williams in a Renaissance style, in brick and cement. It is a four story construction which included public and private luncheon rooms, along with rooms for stewards, ambulance and doctors.

Appealing to the people of Epsom

As war was declared in August of 1914, the doctors of Epsom and Ewell convened a special meeting at the Public Hall in Epsom on Monday 10th August, to discuss a proposal for a hospital on the Downs for the returning wounded soldiers. There was a huge gathering and the hall was full, with hundreds of people unable to gain admission standing outside the venue. The meeting was chaired by Mr A. W. Aston, J.P[3]. He put the proposal to the meeting that the newly built Grand Stand Luncheon Annex should be converted into a hospital to cater for the returning wounded soldiers. Dr E. C. Daniel explained to the crowd that the idea originated with Dr Thornley, who had attended a meeting in London, which culminated in the formation of the Surrey Emergency Committee. Its purpose was to ensure that the efforts throughout the country did not overlap. Having set this up, the doctors looked around Epsom for a suitable premises to house the hospital. They approached Mr N. M. Dorling, chair of The Grand Stand Association, who readily offered the use of the (Epsom) Grand Stand for six months, which they gratefully accepted.

The problem now was equipping the building, and the purpose of the meeting at the Public Hall in Epsom was to raise funds for this. The Annex already housed 80 beds.  Dr Bailey Peacock had offered to reside there as Medical Officer. They also had an offer of a Matron to attend the hospital, who could possibly have been Miss Blainey, currently residing as Matron of the Epsom Nursing Home. In addition they would require six or seven nurses and several voluntary helpers. Other doctors offered to provide lectures and training. The adoption of the scheme outlined by Dr Daniel was then proposed by the Rev. E.W. Northey and seconded by Mr. E. B. Jay.[4] The motion was carried.

The War Office accepted the proposal that the Grandstand Annex be converted into a temporary military hospital. The patients will be transferred from the battlefield to a London hospital (affiliated to the Royal Herbert Hospital in Woolwich) then to Epsom, stated the Epsom Advertiser on 18th September. It opened as a hospital on 21st September 1914 and received its first patients on 12th October 1914.

The hospital Annex was divided up into wards: Derby on the first floor, Oak and City on second floor, and Metropolitan on the third floor. There was also an Isolation Ward and a Day Room for treatment. The ground floor consisted of kitchens and storerooms. The nursing staff were housed in other racecourse buildings. With 65 beds in total[5], The Grand Stand Hospital had been designated as Class A Hospital, meaning it only accepted bedridden patients.

The Epsom Advertiser stated in its 19th October 1914 edition: Few buildings probably lend themselves better for adaptation as a hospital than the grand stand, and from a medical point of view, the rooms – the wards as they are now described – leave little to be desired. They have been admirably furnished, and everything is clean and tidy[6].

Heroes of Mons

At 4pm on 21st October 1914, five hours after King George V had reviewed the troops on the Downs, a large vehicle bearing a red cross on either side drew up to the Grandstand. It contained 4 patients who were shepherded to the wards by the Volunteer Aid Detachment (VAD). A second ambulance drew up with a further six wounded soldiers. All the troops had leg and thigh injuries. Most of the men had received their wounds fighting at the battle of Mons.

The ten soldiers who first arrived in the ambulances were: Private A. Read, aged 28 of 1st [Battalion] Royal Scots [(The Royal Regiment)}; Driver F Densham, aged 23, Royal Field Artillery; Private R. Richardson, aged 20, 1st [Battalion, the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)]; Corporal H. Brown, aged 30, 1st [Battalion,] Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry; Private G Harris, aged 28, 1st [Battalion, Royal] Lincolnshire [Regiment]; Private E Buckley, aged 36, 1st [Battalion, the] Middlesex [Regiment]; Private F Mulry, aged 19, 1st [Battalion, Royal Hampshire Regiment]; Private G Russell, aged 26, 1st [Battalion, the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)]; ; Private W Simpson, aged 24, 1st [Battalion,] Coldstream Guards; Lance Corporal F Galliford, aged 29, 2nd [Battalion, Leinster Regiment].

It is interesting to note that Private R Richardson and Private G Russell are both credited to the 1st Royal East Kent Regiment in the Patients Admission Register (SCH3434/20/4) but this conflicts with the information published in the Epsom Advertiser of 16th October 1914 which states that these two privates were in 1st Royal West Kent regiment which fought at Mons. Was this a genuine mistake by the newspapers or some deliberate misinformation? The answer may never be known.

The newspaper went on to state that the hospital had been efficiently staffed, and Dr Bailey Peacock, a well-known Epsom resident, had been appointed Resident Medical Officer, and had all the qualifications for this responsible post; while the Matron was Miss Blainey of the Epsom Nursing home. There was also a staff of four fully trained sisters and four male orderlies, a London surgeon (Mr Edward Owen), assistant surgeon (Mr Andrew Macalister), fully qualified chemist (Mr Frost), honorary bacteriologist (Dr B Ridge) and medical visiting staff comprising Doctors Alexander, Braidwood, Coltart, Daniel, Ferguson, Ormerod, Ruyner, Reichardt, Fawnley and Williamson (Medical Officer of Health for Epsom district). The hospital was equipped with an X-Ray apparatus of which Mr J Ede had charge. There were also a number of voluntary nurses ready to give their services if called upon: while Mr A. Vardon was acting secretary to the Resident Medical Officer. The secretaries of the fund connected with the hospital were Mr Collyer Jones and Mr A.E Williams.[7]

The Hospital register though, is a chilling reminder of war. On page one, it recalls the deaths on 16th October 1914 of William Andrewartha, followed by Thomas Simms on 17th October; both men were privates in the Manchester Regiment. On page two it records the death of Edmond Buchanan of North Irish Horse on 23rd October 1914. No further deaths are reported in the register which must be a credit to the hospital staff.

Nursing staff outside Grandstand Hospital. Copyright Bourne Hall.

The Epsom Advertiser reports on 6th November 1914 that good progress was being made by the wounded soldiers and that several of the patients were now convalescent, some being able to walk out onto the Downs. Practically all the men were now out of danger. On the 20th November 1914, the Advertiser, reported that several of the soldiers had now been discharged and that there were currently 55 patients at the hospital, six of which were sent to Mrs Coleman’s Convalescence Home at Burgh Heath. Recitals and shows were arranged at the hospital. In November, Miss Gilander’s Concert Party from Purley performed, and the Tattenham Corner Fusiliers (2nd Battalion of the City of London Royal Fusiliers) visited the Grandstand War Hospital and entertained the wounded soldiers, those contributing to an enjoyable programme arranged by Colour Sergeant Whitehead. Gavin (clarinet solos), Colour Sergeant. Whitehead (comedian), Corporal Besley (songs). Lance-Corporal Tombs (songs), Private Party (mimic), Private Fox (songs), Privates Clapp and Goacher in a turn entitled “The Brothers Nuisance.” The stage manager was Sergeant Rose, and Colour Sergeant Anderson occupied the chair[8]. Mr George Furniss and Miss Vera Stredwick also gave a recital. These entertainments were much enjoyed and greatly appreciated by the soldiers, and were a good morale booster.

In late November, boots – especially size 6, 7 and 8 – were requested from the hospital. Other appeals were made for new-laid eggs. The people of Epsom and surrounding districts had been generous in supplying the boots along with additional clothing for the men. Other less appropriate gifts were received, such as pheasants from the King and game from Lord Rosebery. Queen Mary offered the hospital tobacco and cigarettes for Christmas. As the festivities approached the hospital committee asked for evergreens, flags, and British and Belgian ribbon for the Yule tide decorations.

On Christmas Day 1914, the Belgian soldiers sent a letter to the Matrons, Sisters and Nurses, Gentlemen Directors, Secretary and Doctors of the Epsom and Ewell War Hospital, in which they expressed their gratitude and thanks for their care:

Epsom Downs, December 25, 1914
 
Ladies, Gentlemen,
 
We undersigned Belgian soldiers in treatment at the Epsom & Ewell War Hospital take the respectful liberty to express to you our profound appreciation of the tender and devoted care that you have given us.

While our poor Fatherland is the scene of the most terrible tragedy that the world has ever contemplated and that we have been separated in the most brutal way from all those who are dear to us, we have found a new home where the cordiality that you show us relieves the pain that we feel in thinking about our country, which now suffers in the claws of the invader.
 
We shall as soldiers pay the debt of gratitude to which we have submitted. As soon as we are cured thanks to your care, we shall resume our arms to liberate our country, and assure the safety of the admirable Kingdom which grants us hospitality. The fact that we were fighting side by side with the heroes of the Britannic Empire will increase our strength a hundredfold.
 
We wish you all a Happy Christmas and hope that next year brings the realization of your dearest wishes and nothing less: the victory of the Allies. [9].

By mid-January the flow of wounded soldiers had increased to between 50 and 60 patients. Some of the Belgian soldiers had returned to the front line to fight again. The Downs at this time were covered in a foot of snow. In February the hospital expanded its role and started treating a number of soldiers from the Tattenham Corner Camp in the absence of a medical officer at the camp.

In January 1915 speculation was starting to grow about the longevity of the hospital. The Epsom Advertiser reported on 12th February 1916, that it is now an open secret in the town that there is some doubt as to the continuance of this valuable institution and not unnaturally one is anxious to know what is going to happen, especially those inhabitants who subscribe regularly towards its maintenance[10]. The paper goes on to say: Such being the state of affairs one is forced to inquire what has become of the patriotic spirit which prompted the Grand Stand Association six months ago to make the generous offer of the new building on the Downs for use as a War Hospital so that the scheme of the Epsom & Ewell doctors, who were promptly supported by the local public, could be carried into effect.

Other tensions were bubbling away in the background regarding the availability of the Grandstand during the spring race meeting. The lease for The Grandstand Hospital was due to end on 6th March 1915. In parliament, Mr Davidson Dalziel[11], Member of Parliament for Lambeth Brixton, enquired “whether certain buildings forming part of the outbuildings of the Epsom grand stand, and belonging to the Grand Stand Association, have for some months been used as a hospital for wounded soldiers; whether the officials of the Grand Stand Association have now given notice that, owing to the commencement of the spring racing season, the hospital must be closed and the numerous wounded patients removed elsewhere; and whether, in view of the convenient and healthy situation of this hospital, the Government intend to take any steps to secure a continued tenancy?”

Mr Harold Tennant [12], MP for Berwickshire replied: “The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The arrangements were made by the Epsom War Hospital Committee, and I understand that the agreement entered into provided that the building should be vacated before the spring meeting. It is the case that the hospital is well situated, and it has done very good work. I am informed that the patients there can now be moved without danger to their health.”

Mr Davidson Dalziel replied: “Is the right honourable Gentleman aware that at the present time there are in that hospital forty-two wounded soldiers, some of them dangerously wounded, and that they would be removed from there to accommodate the spring meeting only with considerable risk?”

Mr Harold Tennant replied: “I am obliged to the honourable Gentleman for the information. I may say at once that it is not in accordance with the information which has reached me, but I will have investigations made.”

A flurry of letters followed to the Editor of the Times on the subject. Lord Portland felt that it should remain a hospital. Captain Greer, Senior Steward of the Jockey Club, writing in the Times on 26th February 1915, commented that: Lord Villiers, therefore, on behalf of the Stewards, interviewed Mr. Dorling (Chairman of The Grandstand Association) on Tuesday last previous to the meeting between the Grand Stand Association and the Hospital Committee and, having reminded him of the above facts, explained that the Stewards were most strongly of the opinion that, in any arrangement that were made at the meeting, the comfort and well-being of the wounded soldiers should be the first and only consideration. He received from Mr Dorling an assurance that he fully shared these views and that it was with the full intention of giving effect to them that he was about to meet the Hospital Committee[13].

H. M. Dorling followed up with a letter to the Editor of the Times, “It had become necessary to have a proper agreement drawn up between the association and the hospital committee, and it was mutually agreed that the committee should on March 25 vacate one floor of the building and another (the basement) on April 10, resuming possession on April 24 of the entire building … Meanwhile I beg to say that if it should be found that any discomfort or inconvenience to wounded soldiers should result from the agreement being carried out we certainly should not allow it to occur[14].” The Jockey Club suspended the Spring Meeting and the Derby.

In parallel with the arguments in the Times, the Grandstand Hospital’s Day Room was converted into a ward allowing up to 88 patients to be treated at one time. Alongside this, a decision was taken in February 1915 that Horton Asylum would become a war hospital, and during March and April of that year over 2,000 patients were transferred to the hospital.

In May 1915 Colonel Simpson, assistant director of the medical supplies for the district, visited the Grandstand Hospital and was very happy with what he saw.  All beds are occupied (88) and it is expected that the hospital will remain full for some time as the War Office regard it as a most healthy spot, reported The Epsom Advertiser.

In July 1915 the hospital was starting to receive patients from the Dardanelles[15] campaign. ANZAC[16] (Mediterranean Forces as the Patients Register states) troops started to arrive. This was increased by a further 15 ANZAC troops in the following month.

The presence of Horton Hospital accommodating over 2,500 patients spelt the end for the Epsom Grandstand Hospital. The Grandstand committee were concerned about funding and staff levels with the opening of the new facilities down the road. Horton continued as a military hospital until October 1919, when it was converted back to an asylum. Between April 1915 and October 1919, over 40,000 troops had passed through the hospital.

The Epsom Advertiser announced on 28th January 1916 that the Grandstand Hospital was to close. It went on to say: “after doing splendid service for the past 15 months, is to be closed at the end of February, owing to the fact that the medical staff are short-handed, two of them on foreign services, and the remainder being employed in other war work”. The Times Newspaper reported on 10th January that a sum of £250 had been voted to the Red Cross Society of the Grandstand hospital. The hospital closed on 29th February 1916; during its time, 672 patients had passed through its doors. Of these 599 were British, 36 were ANZAC, of which 17 were New Zealand troops and 19 Australian soldiers, 30 were Belgians, 6 Canadians, and 1 was French.

Coding for soldiers in the Epsom Grandstand Hospital Admission Book(SHC 6292/22/13)

The building was converted back to a luncheon annex, and was finally demolished in 2007 to make way for the current Duchess of Cornwall Stand.

[1] SHC Document 3434/9/6 Grand Stand Association Minutes Book 1907-1919. pg314
[2] The Times 16th April 1914:p11
[3] Mr A.W. Aston JP. Local dignitary in Epsom, also worked with Horton Hospital & President of Surrey Agricultural Society.
[4] Epsom Advertiser  18th August 1914:p8
[5] Epsom Advertiser 16th October 1914: p8
[6] Epsom Advertiser 19th October 1914:p8
[7] Epsom Advertiser 16th October 1914:pg8
[8] Epsom Advertiser 20th November 1914 pg 8
[9] Translation of document Z/358 SHC
[10] Epsom Advertiser 12th February 1916 p 8
[11] Davidson Alexander Dalziel, 1st Barron Dalzeil of Wooler (1852-1928) was a Conservative MP between 1910 and 1927. He was also a British Newspaper owner. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery.
[12] Harold John Tennant PC (Privy Council) (1865-1935) Scottish Liberal politician.
[13] The Times Fri 26th Feb 1915 pg5 Issue 40788
[14] The Times Fri 5th March 1915 Page 10 Issue 40794
[15] Dardanelles was a disastrous campaign against the Ottoman Empire in the Dardanelles straights
[16] ANZAC –Australia and New Zealand Army Corps

Harry St. Clair Chad

Henry (Harry) St. Clair Chad was born in 1884 in Redhill, Surrey. He married Alice Levina Ireland on 3 September 1911 and they became licensees of ‘The Marquis of Granby’ in Hooley Lane, Redhill, that year. They had a daughter, Joan Lilian, on 19 February 1915. Harry joined the Army Service Corps (Motor Transport) in May 1916 and trained principally at Marlborough. He was sent to the Western Front where he saw 8 months’ service before being transferred to the Italian Front in 1917. He died from pneumonia following influenza in the 24 Casualty Clearing Station, Italy, on 30 October 1918 and is buried in Montecchio Precalcino Communal Cemetery Extension, 8 miles north-north-east of Vicenza, Italy. His wife continued as sole licensee of ‘The Marquis of Granby’ until she retired to Rustington, West Sussex, in 1961 to be near her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. Alice died in 1971.

Life of Stanley Skelton

Stanley Skelton was born on 18th November 1894 to Charles, a labourer, and Elizabeth Rosa Skelton of Banstead and was baptised at St Andrew’s Church in Kingswood the following April. He lived in Banstead his whole life, becoming a carman for a local coal merchant by 1911 when the family lived at 10 Fir Tree Cottages on Pound Road. On 7th November 1912 he received notice and joined up to the East Surrey Regiment at Kingston-upon-Thames as a reservist.

With the outbreak of war in August 1914 he was mobilised and, after training, posted to the 1st Battalion whom he joined in the field at Ypres on the 6th April 1915. Less than two weeks later, the battalion took part in the ferocious defence of the recently captured Hill 60. After being subjected to a two-and-a-half hour ‘annihilation bombardment’, their position was assaulted by German bombing parties and infantry attacks. Despite the heavy attack, the East Surreys held the line and were relieved the following day.

The Battalion spent the summer months around Ypres before being moved south to the defences around Maricourt on the Somme. Here they remained for the winter, being rotated in and out of the trenches. After nine months at the front, Stanley was granted his first and only leave in January 1916. That spring, the Battalion was moved again, this time to Arras. It was here the Stanley received a gunshot wound to the abdomen on 24th April and was invalided back to England, spending three months at the Northfield Military Hospital in Birmingham. On 3rd October 1916 he was formally discharged as ‘physically unfit’, earning a Silver Star (Silver War Badge) for his wounds.

After his military service, Stanley returned to Banstead where he eventually found work as a gas stoker. He met Alice Daniels, a war widow, and they were married on 3rd August 1918 at Banstead All Saints’ Church. Three months later the war ended, but peace for Stanley was short lived. Shortly after his 24th birthday, he contracted influenza and bronchitis, succumbing to his illness on 9th December 1918. Three days later he was buried at All Saints’ Church in Banstead and given a military headstone as recognition for his service. His only child, a daughter named Kathleen, was born the following year on 2nd August 1919.

Two of Stanley’s brothers, Thomas and Alfred, would also lose their lives in the First World War and are remembered on the Banstead war memorial.