A Record of the Naval, Military, Social, Commercial and Industrial activities of the
citizens of Liverpool, Birkenhead, Bootle and Wallasey.

Reproduced from the 'Liverpool Courier' - a special report in 76 parts

 

LIVERPOOL'S MILITARY HOSPITALS: The 1st Western General Hospital  

07 Oct 1919 Part XXXVIII (38)

 
   In those chapters of our story which were devoted to the Territorial Force associated with Liverpool, there was an intentional omission of any reference to one unit of the West Lancashire R.A.M.C. - the "1st Western General Hospital." That unit had been newly created in 1908, its first commanding Officer being Lieut.-Colonel Nathan F. Raw, who was succeeded in 1913 by Lieut.-Colonel A. Burns Gemmel, R.A.M.C., a well-known Sefton Park practitioner.
   With the outbreak of war in 1914 came the emergency for which this unit had been specially created and trained. At that time its personnel was small, numbering only three officers and 43 other ranks, but under the scheme for the mobilisation of the Territorial Force, arrangements had been made whereby it could be immediately expanded by the incorporation in that unit of 32 officers, technically known as "a la suite Officers," drawn from the ranks of Liverpool specialists, 65 V.A.D's (men), and a Territorial nursing staff, consisting of three matrons, 30 sisters, and 88 nurses.
   The nominal roll of the permanent and "a la suite" officers and quartermasters who were attached to the 1st Western General Hospital included:-
     Lt.-Col. A. Burns Gemmel, R.A.M.C. (T.), officer commanding.
     Major C. Rundle, R.A.M.C. (T.), registrar.
     Capt. and Qrmr. A. Naldrett, R.A.M.C. (T.).
     Capt. and Qrmr. E.E. Sparrow, R.A.M.C. (T.).
     Lt. and Qrmr. Holliday, R.A.M.C. (T.).
   A LA SUITE OFFICERS
     Major-General Sir Robert Jones, K.B.E., C.B.
     Lieut.-Col. Sir James Barr.
     Lieut.-Col. W. Alexander (deceased).
     Lieut.-Col. Sir R. Ross.
     Lieut.-Col. J. Hay.
     Major F.T. Paul.
     Major T. Bushby (deceased).
     Major R.W. Murray.
     Major T.R. Bradshaw.
     Major E.A. Brown (deceased).
     Major P. Davidson.
     Major J. Utting.
     Major C.T. Holland.
     Major R.A. Bickersteth.
     Major T.R.W. Armour.
     Major K.W. Monsarratt.
     Major R.E. Kelly.
     Capt. J.R. Logan.
     Capt. J.M. Hunt.
     Capt. F.C. Larkin.
     Capt. F.C. Permewan.
     Capt. Douglas-Crawford.
     Capt. J.L. Roberts.
     Capt. R.J.M. Buchanan.
     Capt. W.B. Warrington (deceased).
     Capt. V.C. De Boinville.
     Capt. L.A. Morgan.
     Capt. A.J. Evans.
     Capt. R.W. McKenna.
     Capt. H. Armstrong.
     Capt. E.E. Glynn.
     Capt. Pantland Hick (deceased).
     Capt. W. Oram.
     Capt. E. Stevenson.
   The expansion provided by the inclusion of the above did not, however, meet fully the requirements which were occasioned by the intensity and the extent of the struggle. Before the war had ended, the First Western General Hospital bore upon its roll-
          38 officers,
         325 N.C.O.'s and men,
         170 trained nurses,
         340 V.A.D. nurses,
         200 general service V.A.D.'s,
         250 labour women.
Nor would these members have sufficed had it not been for the immense service rendered by members of the local V.A.D.'s, who gave their services freely, both by day and night.
   The story of the labours of this great host, who were associated in the noblest of all the war's grim undertakings, must necessarily suffer from the compression of a multitude of facts into a comparatively small space, and, whilst we shall endeavour to do justice to every branch associated with the care of the sick and wounded, it will be impossible for us to render personal tributes except in the representative sense.
   Again and again we shall have to call upon our readers to exercise their imagination and mental vision in interpreting from the facts which we record the self-sacrifice which has been displayed, and the devotion to duty which has characterised all ranks and classes who have shared in the burden which devolved upon the community from the moment of the arrival of the first hospital ship in the Mersey until the departure of the last grateful patient from Liverpool's war hospitals.
   Long before the war broke out the West Lancashire Territorial Association had arranged with the Liverpool Corporation that, in the event of the mobilisation of the Territorials, the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Fazakerley should be utilised as a military hospital. Thoroughly modern, having only been erected in 1908, and being arranged on the Pavilion system, it was ideal for the purpose, and when inspected by Sir Alfred Keogh, the Director-General of Medical Services during the war, was described by him as one of the finest in the country. The formal agreement for possession was completed between the Corporation and the West Lancashire Territorial Association on the 5th August, 1914, and Lt.-Col. Burns Gemmel was immediately given authority to establish the 1st Western General Hospital in this institution. Three days later the Corps marched into Fazakerley, occupying the annexe until the main building was disinfected, and as each pavilion became available it was transformed to fulfil its new function.
   The first patient was admitted on the 11th of August, and was, of course, a soldier stationed in the Liverpool area. Before the end of the month, however, the number of patients had increased to 148, although only local troops were being dealt with at this time. It was not until the 22nd September, 1914, that the first overseas patients were admitted, when the hospital ship Eloby arrived in the Mersey from France. On the 1st of October the first ambulance train arrived at Aintree, and from that time onwards the demands upon the accommodation were vastly increased. It speedily became apparent that the 520 beds which had been provided at Fazakerley were entirely inadequate, and that special accommodation must be provided immediately. It was only necessary to make the appeal to secure an instant response. Lord Derby had offered on the day of mobilisation to convert part of Knowsley Hall into a hospital with 100 beds if required. It became necessary to accept his generous proposal, and his example was speedily followed by others.
   In order to enable us to present quite clearly to our readers what has been Liverpool's part in this section of war-work, we must must now explain that the Administrator of the 1st Western General Hospital, Lt.-Col. A. Burns Gemmel, was responsible not only for the control of that hospital, but also for the supervision of all military hospitals which were created in a considerable area outside Liverpool. During the early part of the war these auxiliary hospitals extended from Anglesea and from the south of Shrewsbury to north of Carlisle, and eventually three other general hospitals had to be created to relieve Liverpool of so onerous a burden.
   In addition to the auxiliary hospitals provided by private generosity, it became necessary to establish hospitals in schools and other public buildings, such as the new Town Hall at Wallasey, and to call upon the Board of Guardians and the governors of various public hospitals to place beds at the disposal of the authorities. The following is a list of the section hospitals which were established, together with the names of the medical practitioners who were in charge of them:-
     Westminster-road, Liverpool. - Dr. J.C. Moyles
     Sherlock-street, Liverpool. - Dr. W.A. Wright and Dr. Bennett Jones.
     St. James-road, Liverpool. - Dr. Grimsdale and Dr. Leslie Roberts.
     Wellington-road, Liverpool. - Dr. W. McLelland.
     Venice-street, Liverpool. - Dr. H.T. Nixon and Dr. J.P. Nixon.
     Netherfield-road, Liverpool. - Dr. F.J. Palmer.
     Aigburth Cricket Pavilion, Liverpool. - Dr. W. Patterson.
     Temple-road, Birkenhead. - Dr. J. Fardon.
     Bidston-avenue, Birkenhead. - Dr. J.M. Murphy.
     Hemingford-street, Birkenhead. - Dr. R. Wyse.
     Mersey Park, Birkenhead. - Dr. J. Noble.
     Ionic-street, Rock Ferry. - Dr. T.W.N. Barlow and Dr. W.M. Crook.
     Wallasey Town Hall. - Dr. W.C. Milroy and Dr. Lyburn.
     "Wilton Grange," West Kirkby. - Dr. W. McIntyre Brown.
     "Hulme Hall," Port Sunlight. - Dr. G. Hill.
For administrative purposes, each of the sectional hospital enumerated above were regarded as being wards of the 1st Western General Hospital. Their importance, however, may be appreciated by the fact that in only two instances was the accommodation provided less than 100 beds, most of the others having just over or under 200 beds. In the case of the new Town Hall at Wallasey there were 430 beds, so that it almost rivalled Fazakerley in size. In all, these sections provided 3,348 beds, or more that six times the number available at Fazakerley, and it is important to remember that each of them was staffed by the R.A.M.C. personnel, and that the nurses were drawn from the Territorial Force Nursing Section.
   It is unfortunately impossible to ascertain the exact number of patients that were dealt with in the hospitals in Liverpool and district during the war. Some idea may be gained by the fact that the admissions to the Central Hospital at Fazakerley, which includes the sections named above, numbered 26,480. The success which has attended the labours of the medical and nursing staffs is evidenced by the fact that the percentage of deaths to the total admissions works out at only .77 per cent., although it was to this hospital that all the most serious cases were sent so far as the entire area was concerned. Most of our readers have sufficient knowledge to enable them to visualise the ordinary routine of hospital work, and they will be able to appreciate the significance of the facts already stated, but behind the scenes there has been an enormous amount of special work undertaken to which we must refer if any clear conception is to be gained of the immensity of the efforts which have been made by the staff at Fazakerley.
   The Pathological Department was under Capt. E.G. Glynn, R.A.M.C., and was carried on in the Thompson-Yates Laboratory at the Liverpool University. Over 24,000 pathological and bacteriological reports were made, 16,000 dealing with dysentery patients. In addition, special investigation was made in regard to influenza, and a report prepared in regard to that terrible scourge, which was circulated by the Deputy-Director of Medical Services to a large number of hospitals containing influenza and pneumonia patients. Much research work on war diseases had also been carried out, which has been of the utmost value from a scientific standpoint.
   Cerebo-spinal fever, a disease which is as fatal as it is mysterious, has also been the subject of special study. Major J.M. Beattie, R.A.M.C., the officer in charge of these cases, which had to be strictly isolated, having had to deal with 84 suspected cases, of which 57 turned out to be genuine; whilst in addition 3,000 examinations have been made of soldiers and others who had been brought into contact with sufferers from the disease. The details of Major Beattie's work are too technical for description here.
   Fazakerley has had the honour of being created a special centre for the surgical treatment of injuries to the jaw, and also of fractures of the thigh.
   Capt. Douglas-Crawford was appointed surgeon in charge of the Jaw Centre at Highfield, with Mr. S. Hallam (hon. consulting dental surgeon to the 1st Western) as his dental colleague, whilst Mr. W.H. Gilmour, senior dental officer at the Liverpool Dental hospital, also took an active part in the work. The total number of patients treated was 176, but it must be remembered that each case involved many treatments. Messrs. Hallam and Gilmour devoting six hours weekly to this centre, whilst for a period the former provided the jaw splints at his own expense. Capt. Douglas-Crawford's work consisted mainly of plastic operations upon the face, removal of foreign bodies such as shrapnel and of diseased bone, whilst the division of fractures which had united badly has been also of the utmost importance. The remarkable success of the special centre in preventing permanent disfigurements reflects the highest credit on the three gentlemen who were concerned in its operations.
   In June 1918, instructions were received by Colonel Gemmel that special wards should be set apart at Fazakerley for the treatment of cases of compound fracture of the thigh bone, and Major Bickersteth was ordered to undergo a special week's training in their treatment. Shortly afterwards 40 patients of this class arrived, and before long there were no fewer than 127 at Fazakerley. Unfortunately the proper bed equipment was not supplied, although frequently and urgently demanded, and Major Bickersteth spent his own money freely in order to remedy the deficiency, whilst the British Red Cross Society also came to the rescue, and by their assistance averted a scandal. In January, 1919, all the patients in this department were transferred to Alder Hey.
   The X-Ray Department was organised in August, 1914, under Major C.T. Holland, and at first apparatus was loaned from the Royal Infirmary and private individuals, but as things adjusted themselves the War Office made the necessary provision. Sister Anderson was in charge throughout the war until March, 1918, and has been highly commended for her services. A Red Cross nurse and a V.A.D. nurse were trained, and became efficient X-Ray assistants. Sister Lloyd was trained, and afterwards took charge. A large portion of the work came from attached hospitals and various camps, and it was found necessary to install two complete sets of apparatus. Generally speaking, the work consisted in showing bone injuries and foreign bodies, but, especially in 1917 and 1918 large numbers of cases such as occur in civilian practice had to be dealt with. Nine thousand three hundred and forty-one cases were dealt with to the end of March last, and foreign bodies were present an 3,386.
   As the war progressed the number of military patients suffering from skin diseases had become so great that special accommodation had to be provided for them. Originally 28 beds were set aside for them in St.James-road Auxiliary Hospital, but the number had to be increased to 40. Ultimately there was as many as 100 cases in hospital at one time, and in all 700 patients were treated for skin disease. A majority of the cases were scabies, which, owing to the fact that they were seldom uncomplicated involved a considerable loss of time from service on the part of the patients during the course of the war. Impetigo and sycosis were also common skin affections, and in the case of the latter is is noteworthy that whilst sometimes patients who would have been attending civil hospitals for years were accepted by recruiting boards with the remark that they would be cured in the army in a week, a considerable number of them spent a great portion of their army life in hospital, and ultimately had to be declared permanently unfit.
   A centre for the treatment of throat, nose, and ear complaints was first stationed at Fazakerley itself, but as the work increased it was removed to the Wellington-road school section. There the non-operative cases were collected from the other hospitals, surrounding camps, and command depots, whilst large numbers attended as out-patients and for special opinion. The operative cases were dealt with at the Royal Southern Hospital.
   An ophthalmic centre was established at Fazakerley in April, 1916, from which date 6,265 cases were dealt with, the total number of attendances being 9,447. Mr H. Holmes was appointed civilian ophthalmic surgeon, to deal mainly with refraction cases from the Western Command depot and local camps. Sergt. J.P.B. Masterman, R.A.M.C. (T.F.), an optician, was also appointed to the centre. All cases requiring operation or special treatment were admitted to the Liverpool Eye and Ear Infirmary, where a ward was reserved for military cases under Captain Stevenson's care.  
 
 

READ Part XXXVII (37) LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY'S CONTRIBUTION TO VICTORY Contd

READ Part XXXIX (39) LIVERPOOL'S MILITARY HOSPITALS Contd: Highfield and Smithdown Road

 
 
 
 

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