The Hill Military Hospital, Farnham

Text by Gillian Devine

The Hill Hospital, Lower Bourne, near Farnham

Title: The Hill Hospital, Lower Bourne, near Farnham
Description: Copyright: Rural Life Museum, Tilford by-nc

This hospital was opened on 9 October 1914 in a house in Latchwood Lane, Farnham, lent by Mrs Lewin. It was under the command of the Cambridge Hospital in Aldershot. It provided 36 beds and there was also a small annexe with 10 beds at Lodge Hill, maintained by Mrs Tetley. Both establishments were staffed by Frensham Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) 54, whose Commandant was Miss D Gore-Browne of Rowledge House. There were two Honorary Medical Officers, Drs Hall and Ealand. A men’s VAD Detachment (Surrey 23) supplied night and day orderlies and stretcher bearers at both hospitals, and the Farnham St John’s Ambulance Society provided the ambulances when required. Local people helped where they could. Mrs Firebrace of Frensham Place kindly lent her laundry (facilities?) to the hospital and the letter below thanks Miss Lane, the doctor’s daughter, for the gift of some crutches.

Thank you letter to Miss Lane

Title: Thank you letter to Miss Lane
Description: Copyright: Rural Life Centre, Tilford by-nc

In 1915, because of the rising demand for beds to accommodate the wounded, the total number of beds was increased to 60 by erecting a hut containing 24 beds in the grounds. This is shown clearly in the photograph above. The hospital continued to be manned by the Frensham VAD, assisted by two fully-trained nurses, one for day and one for night duty. The Red Cross’s annual report noted that the hospital had been occupied continuously ever since it opened in October 1914, except for three weeks during September 1915 when it had been closed for cleaning. By 12 January 1916, 418 patients who had been transferred from the Cambridge Hospital at Aldershot had passed through the hospital. 160 of these had belonged to the British Expeditionary Force. Seventy patients had completed their cure in the small convalescent home provided by Mrs Tetley.

The demand for beds to treat the wounded was very high in 1916 and 500 patients were treated during the year. A total of 1000 patients had been treated in the hospital since it had opened in 1914. The Red Cross annual report published in 1916 noted that the hospital worked very satisfactorily and that excellent reports were received from Aldershot. The Sister-in Charge, Sister Dunbabin, who came from Liverpool, was awarded the Order of the Royal Red Cross for Home Service. This was announced in the Liverpool Echo of 21 June 1916. One of the features of the hospital was the needlework department.  The patients’ work was sold and the money used to buy materials and to set up an arts and crafts department which was a great boon to the men.

The Red Cross ‘s 1917 annual report stated that 1,472 patients had been admitted since the hospital opened and that the average time that each patient spent in the hospital was 3-4 weeks. Sister Dunbabin was assisted by two trained nurse and 10 VAD volunteers. The workshops, toy department and needlework flourished under the Misses Pennington and some of the goods which the patients produced were bought by royalty. Queen Mary bought a bag made by one of the patients and was photographed at The Hill stall at a show, which presumably was supported by other organisations as well, at Sotheby’s. Queen Alexandra also visited the stall and purchased a blotting book, and the stall was also visited by the Princesses Mary and Patricia, and by the Duke of Connaught. The hospital was well supported with gifts of vegetables, tobacco, books, cakes and eggs from local schools and from the friends of the hospital.

The fourth birthday of the hospital was celebrated by an anniversary aervice, and the next day there was a birthday tea and entertainment for the patients and staff.

The Hill Hospital was closed early in 1919. 1,950 cases had passed through, and although there were some serious cases, due to the good work of Drs Spencer Hall and Ealand who had worked at the hospital from its date of opening, and to Sister Dunbabin, there had been no deaths. When the workshop was closed a cheque for £450 was sent to St Dunstan’s Hospital for Blinded Soldiers.

The card below is the index card for The Hill Hospital.  It was started in 1915, some time after the hospital was first opened and continued until 1918. 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. The card for Marris Lodge has entries only for 1919.

Index Card for The Hill Hospital

Title: Index Card for The Hill Hospital
Description: Copyright: British Red Cross Museum Archives by-nc




The British Red Cross Museum & Archives (the Annual Reports (1914 – 1919) of the Surrey Branch of the Red Cross)
Rural Life Museum, Tilford


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One Response to “The Hill Military Hospital, Farnham”

  1. Andrew Alston

    I’ve been following up Sister Lilian Mary Dunbabin. In December 1919 she headed to Singapore, where in June 1920 she attended the King’s Birthday Ball.
    However, the nursing registers for 1921 and 1923 give Lilian’s address as Rowledge House, Farnham, which is also the address given in the Red Cross’s records for the Great War. In 1924 she had moved to Worthing when she visited the USA. in 1926 she was in Deptford, Kent, but I then lose track of her. There was still a link to Farnham, though; her brother John moved in the 1930s to run the Brookwood Hotel. In 1939 the place seemed to be called the Station Hotel, but I believe it is the same building.

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