Text by Gillian Devine
Images of The Highlands Military Hospital can be found in the Francis Frith Collection: http://www.francisfrith.com/farnham/farnham-highlands-military-hospital-1917_67975
Gwen Ware, a young woman in her early twenties, enrolled as a V.A.D (Voluntary Aid Detachment) nurse and started Red Cross work on her birthday at The Highlands Hospital in Shortheath, Farnham. ‘It was only a small Auxiliary place, 45 beds, but I had plenty of work to do and learnt a certain amount.’ (see her book ‘A Rose in Picardy’ the diaries of Gwen Ware – 1916-1918, published by Farnham and District Museum Society). After an appeal for more V.A.Ds, necessary because a rush of wounded was expected from some great push on the Western Front, she transferred to a much larger hospital, the Bramshott Military Hospital.
The Highlands Military Hospital was opened with 40 beds on March 8th 1915 as an auxiliary to the Military Hospital, Frensham Hill. Thanks to the generosity of the neighbourhood and substantial support from the Lord Lieutenant’s County Fund and the Farnham War Relief Fund, the expenses of equipment were kept to a minimum. It was staffed entirely by the Bourne V.A.D. (No. 74), one medical officer, Dr Rubens Wade, a Lady Superintendent, Miss M.A. Peddie, and two trained nurses. The commandant was Miss A Miller. Four masseuses were also employed. By 31 December 1915 400 patients had passed through the hospital.
This is the Index card for Highlands Hospital. It was obviously started in 1915, possibly when the hospital was first opened but was not continued until 1919, the date of closure. It contains some useful information, i.e. the address, the name of the Commandant and the number of beds, but, unfortunately there is nothing to put the entries in context. There were many more workers at the hospital than shown here.
1916 was reported to be ‘successful in every way’. The hospital continued to grow and in September 1916 it was registered under the War Charities’ Act. A Finance Committee under the Chairmanship of Mr Ernest Crundwell was appointed. The number of beds was increased to 46 by the conversion of a small garden house into a ward and 600 patients were treated that year. A permanent Sister-in-Charge, was appointed. At first she undertook most of the massage work but, in November, a full-time qualified masseur, Mr D. Hill-Cook, was appointed. His wife helped him with his work. Massage was recognised as important in the treatment of injured nerves, muscles and joints to help regain the use of limbs. As it said in the Surrey Branch Annual Report, 1917, the treatment could mean ‘all the difference between sending a man out into the world a cripple for life, or restoring to him – wholly or partly – the use of limbs by which he may gain a living, or at any rate become less of a burden to himself and to others’.
The accommodation at the hospital was increased early in the year by the erection of a hut. The cost of building and furnishing was met by generous subscriptions from friends and neighbours. It was intended to use the hut for recreation, but, owing to the high demand for beds it was very soon turned into a ward. This increased the number of beds to 51. At the same time, the largest ward in the hospital was taken over as a day and recreation Room. Dr Rubens Wade served as medical officer until June 1917 when he was replaced by Dr F Hancock of Bentley. Mr D Wallis, a dental surgeon from Farnham offered free treatment to the patients. His offer was ‘largely taken care of’. 492 men passed through the hospital during 1917.
The difficult problem of shortage of food was tackled cheerfully. The 3-acre garden in which the hospital stood was cultivated, and a 20-rod allotment was used to grow potatoes. Some of the patients helped to trench the new ground which yielded about 1 ton of potatoes. It was hoped that a second allotment could be cultivated in the next season.
More beds were needed and in 1918 the number was increased to 71. Two marquees and the extra beds were provided by Aldershot. Miss Miller continued to act as Commandant and in 1918 she received the M.B.E. Two of her staff also received honours.
The hospital was closed early in 1919 and a Curative Post under the Surrey Red Cross was set up in the Hospital Hut, which was moved to a more central position (in the town?) for the benefit of War Pensioners in the district. The post was opened to patients in June 1919, and between June and the end of the year 44 War Pensioners attended and 2,962 treatments were given.
There are a selection of photographs taken at the Highlands hospital in 1916. They appear in an album of Ware family snapshots and can be found at Farnham Museum, ref. 183/1. In most of them the men are wearing ‘Hospital Blues’, the clothing issued to the wounded. Hospital Blues were made in a limited number of sizes. If the trousers were too long you just had to turn them up, and you can see this in many of the photos! Croquet on the lawn was evidently part of the Occupational Therapy. The photograph below is one example:
Sale catalogue held at the Rural Life Centre, Tilford.
This, and the other information in this section, is taken from the Annual Reports (1914 – 1919) of the Surrey Branch of the Red Cross. These are held at the British Red Cross Museum Archives, British Red Cross, UK Office, 44 Moorfields, London EC2 9AL. refs. RCB/2/3/2/1-5.
British Red Cross Museum Archives, British Red Cross, UK Office, 44 Moorfields, London EC2 9AL.