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



23 Dec 1919 Part IL (49)

   [With this article we are compelled to conclude our account of the work of the Voluntary Aid Detachments and Auxiliary Military Hospitals in the Liverpool district. We regret that exigencies of space and time prevent us from recording the self-sacrificing labours of so many valiant men and women who have devoted their energy and ability and far more than their leisure to the noble task of succouring those who had been stricken on the field of battle.]

Voluntary Aid Detachments 42 and 44 and the Tower Hospital, Rainhill.

   V.A.D.'s Nos. 42 and 44 were formed at the very beginning of the war from a very large branch of the St. John Ambulance Association which had been established in January, 1914, at a public meeting called for this purpose in St.Helens. Mrs. Jackson, the wife of Colonel R. Jackson, R.A.M.C., and A.D.M.S. of the 55th (W.L.) Division (T.F.), became Commandant - a position which she still occupies. Mrs. Robert Rawlins was the first quartermaster, being succeeded by Miss Tuff (now Mrs. Price). No greater proof of the thoroughness with which the early training had been pursued is possible than that afforded by the first piece of war-work attempted. In September, 1914, they held a field-day at Knowsley Park. Three temporary casualty clearing stations were arranged at Knowsley, Knotty Ash, and Huyton, with a base hospital at the Woolton Hydropathic Institution. These were each taken over and thoroughly cleaned and equipped within the space of 24 hours, and 300 "dummy" patients, provided by the West Lancashire Field Ambulance, were collected from the field of the sham battle in Knowsley Park, after being appropriately "tallied" by the medical staff, and transported to one or other of the stations, where they were received, washed, their alleged wounds or injuries being dressed or treated, after which they were put to bed and fed. The successful manner in which V.A.D.'s 42 and 44 accomplished these tasks earned high praise from the inspecting officers.
   Shortly after this it was resolved that an auxiliary hospital should be provided. An Appeal for funds to the residents in St.Helens and district met with a splendid response. The owner of a large mansion at Rainhill, known as "The Tower," offered them its use rent free. This was gratefully accepted, and between the expenditure of funds collected and the loans of furniture which were immediately offered, it was soon fully equipped. February, 1915, saw "The Tower" opened with 35 beds, its first patients being men from the Pals' Battalions then encamped in Knowsley Park. Colonel Knowles was the first Medical Officer in Charge, but he was succeeded by Dr. Eric Reid, who "carried on" until April, 1916, when Colonel R. Jackson, having returned from France, took over the duties, which he performed until the hospital closed. As the pressure of patients from overseas increased, so the accommodation at "The Tower" was enlarged, and when the building was fully occupied, tents and marquees were erected in the spacious grounds until no less than 100 patients were being succoured. The total number of patients who passed through the hospital totalled close upon 2,000.

Voluntary Aid Detachment No. 46.

Commandant, Miss F.A. Collie.
Medical Officer, Dr. Frances M. Price.
Lady Superintendent, Miss Tipper.
Trained Nurse, Miss Glover.
Quartermaster, Miss M. Knight.
   The West Lancashire Territorial Force V.A.D. 46 differs from other units inasmuch as its members consist almost entirely of University students and lecturers. In August, 1914, the corps was organised, with Miss F. Collie as commandant, and Dr. Frances M. Price as medical officer. Eight courses of lectures in home nursing and first aid were given in all by Dr. Price, to whose untiring efforts the success of the corps was mainly due. By the end of September, 1914, 25 members had passed the St.John's Ambulance Association examination in nursing, and 40 in first aid, and the unit received official recognition from the War Office in December, 1914.
   Miss Tipper, matron of the Skin Hospital, in Pembroke-place, kindly consented to give members of the corps some practical training in nursing, and allowed them to observe treatment given to out-patients, and later on to help with dressings, etc. So the detachment grew in numbers. Other members received their training at the Northern, the Royal and various other local hospitals, and went round with the district nurses to gain insight into different kinds of work, as it was thought at first that V.A. Detachments would be made use of to relieve nurses from civilian hospitals. Several students, as soon as they were qualified, gave up their studies at the University, and volunteered for full-time service for periods varying from six months to the duration of the war. Others, who were unable to do this, set aside so many hours weekly for hospital duty, and, in addition, gave up three weeks or a month of their vacation each year. The first volunteers went to the Tranmere Auxiliary Hospital, Birkenhead, and were put on to the civilian wards, where they rendered useful service. One student was rather startled to find that one of her first duties was to help with laying-out a poor old inmate who had gone to her rest. Other members of the unit volunteered for night duty at the Cottage Auxiliary Hospital at Heswall. Another contingent went as relief ward-maids to the Latchford Red Cross Hospital, where their duties consisted in scrubbing floors and washing up. The commandant at Latchford wrote: "It has been delightful having the students, they have worked splendidly."
   By such arrangements as these the regular staff of some of the local hospitals were enabled to get a holiday, and members of the corps gained valuable experience which they could put into practice during the following vacation, when they went into the wards of various military hospitals. By this time - summer, 1916 - the strain on the ordinary hospitals had become so great that it was impossible to supply the demand for V.A.D.'s, and even part-time volunteers found that instead of being asked to scrub floors and wash dishes they were expected to take full duty in the wards and operating theatres. The work was intensely interesting, and many who had chafed at having to keep to their studies were satisfied to feel that they could do "real war work" in their leisure time.
   In addition to nursing members, a rota of general service members gave their services as orderlies, chiefly at Myrtle-street Auxiliary Hospital, where they went in the evenings and on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 7 to 2.
   During the five years of war the corps was kept at full strength, viz. 40, but this by no means represents the number of those who were trained. Between 250 and 300 attended the lectures, and of these 157 sat for examination and obtained certificates: 12 gained medallions. Some training in sick-nursing was given, and practical demonstrations were held from time to time, in which whole corps took part.
   Although the number of those who volunteered for full-time service may compare unfavourably with other detachments, it must be borne in mind that with very few exceptions the unit was composed of students who were working for degrees, and lecturers and teachers, who could only give a few hours every week to hospital work.
   It is hoped that the corps will not be disbanded, but will continue to exist as one of the permanent activities of the University.

Avenue Auxiliary Hospital.

   This hospital was organised, at the request of Sir James Barr, by Mr. Frank Tobin, a well-known Liverpool stockbroker, who devoted himself most energetically to war-work both as Corps Superintendent of the St.John Ambulance Association in Liverpool and in connection with the Civic Service League. A large nursing home in Prince's-avenue was taken over and adapted, and it was decided that it should be set apart for officers.
   Mr. Tobin collected the necessary funds for the equipment of the hospital, and was freely assisted by both the St.John Ambulance Association, who supplied linen, blankets, etc., and with surgical requisites from the Liverpool branch of the British Red Cross, whose secretary at that time (the late Mr. Corbett Lowe) gave, in addition, the benefit of his valuable advice whenever required. The committee appointed Mrs. Abercrombie (late matron of the Shaw-street Hospital for Women) as matron and commandant. Three fully-trained Sisters were also enrolled on the staff, Sister Valetta being in charge of the exceptionally fine operating theatre which had been provided. Dr. Carse acted as medical officer in charge, and Dr. Nevins frequently deputised for him; whilst Mr. Keith Monsarrat acted as operating surgeon, and Dr. Hugh E. Jones, Mr. Tindal and Sir James Barr also shared in the active medical and surgical work of the hospital. Miss King acted as honorary masseuse, and achieved excellent results. That veteran clergyman, the Rev. J. Bell Cox, will always be affectionately remembered by the patients. Every day except Sunday he attended the hospital to carve the joint at the mid-day dinner, and his high spirits were as effective from a physical standpoint as were his spiritual ministrations.
   A great debt of gratitude is also due to the devoted band of V.A.D.'s who played a great part in maintaining the hospital in a high state of efficiency. Four of these ladies deserve special mention for their efforts - Miss Edith Irvine (who won the Blue Bar and Silver A of an efficient staff nurse), Mrs. Grieve, Miss Nesta Lloyd and Miss Milner Brown.
   In the committee itself, and down through the ranks of the workers in the hospital, one desire was predominant, to do all that was possible for the recovery and the comfort of the patients. That the latter realised and appreciated these efforts was constantly manifested; whilst the comment of one of the inspecting officers, Major-General Porter, C.M.G., C.B., who said at the end of one of his visits-
              "I did not know that it was possible that each patient could receive such devoted personal attention,".
   That is, perhaps, the finest tribute which could have been offered to the staff under Mrs. Abercrombie, who has been awarded the Royal Red Cross for her services.

"Oakdene" and "Oaklands," Rainhill.

   These hospitals represent the contributions of West Lancashire Voluntary Aid Detachment No. 40, which had only been formed in January, 1914, and whose 26 members were in possession of first aid certificates when war broke out. Home nursing lectures were immediately organised, and the membership rapidly increased. A definite purpose existed in this activity, viz., the provision of an auxiliary hospital, and at the end of 1914 they were able to offer to the War Office "Oakdene," a large private house, which had been placed at their disposal for the purpose by Mr. Henry Gamble and which had been equipped by means of funds subscribed and gifts received from local residents. Needless to say, the offer was gratefully accepted by the War Office, Mrs. Bishop (at that time the wife of Major Bishop), who had been responsible for V.A.D. No. 40, being appointed as commandant of "Oakdene," which was opened on 14th March, 1915, with 30 beds as a Class A hospital, taking patients direct from ambulance trains. Mrs. C.D. Stanley acted as quartermaster during the first year, being succeeded by Miss D. Nisbett, whilst Miss Turton was the assistant-quartermaster.
   The first medical officer was Dr. Hutchinson, but he was compelled to retire in May, 1915, and from that date the duties were shared by Dr. C.H. Wild and Dr. Youatt. In addition to receiving patients from France and other theatres of war, "Oakdene" became of great service for the treatment of patients from the Command Depot at Knowsley Park, especially during the influenza epidemic.
   In the spring of 1917, although the number of beds at "Oakdene" had been increased to 65, it became apparent that further provision could be made. Sir David Gamble placed "Oaklands" at the disposal of V.A.D. No. 10, and here a second hospital containing 40 beds was speedily organised by Mrs. Bishop. The membership of No. 40 had increased from 26 to 64, all honorary workers, and with the help of a few staff nurses they managed to run these two hospitals with unqualified success.
   The medical officers testify alike to the efficiency and the comfort of the hospitals. Mrs. Bishop is described as one who possessed great tact and good nature, popular with both staff and patients and thoroughly devoted. When stricken by bereavement through the death of Major Bishop in action, the Commandant was cheered by the presentation of an illuminated address composed by the patients. "Oakdene" and "Oaklands" were certainly hospitals where the patients enjoyed themselves, yet discipline was carefully maintained. With the characteristic humour of the British "Tommy," "Oakdene," where Sister Deane - a most capable head-nurse, who has been awarded the R.R.C. - was in charge, was speedily dubbed "The Deanery," whilst "Oaklands," under Mrs. Bishop, became "The Palace."
   Like most other hospitals, "Oakdene" and "Oaklands" had their share of humorous incidents. Once of these concerns a patient who complained of face-ache and from whose swollen jaw a bullet was extracted, the patient having "no idea of how it got there."
   No fewer that 1,331 patients were treated at "Oakdene" and "Oaklands" during their four years' existence. Eight members of V.A.D. No. 40 were mentioned in despatches, and Mrs. Bishop received the O.B.E., a richly-deserved decoration. It is, perhaps, fitting that we should mention that Mrs. Bishop has recently re-married and is now Mrs. Down.

Voluntary Aid Detachment No. 70.

   The character of the service rendered by the above detachment has been of an exceptional nature. Although initiated by the Civic Service League before the end of 1914, it was not until November 1915 that it was formally enrolled and that Mrs. Girdlestone, of Wavertree, who had been actively engaged on its organisation, was appointed Commandant, a position which she has filled with unusual distinction and advantage to the City of Liverpool, of which this Detachment may be said to be thoroughly representative, as its membership - aggregating over 1,000 - consisted entirely of residents in the city. 
   How great the work has been may be guessed by the fact that during 1915 and 1916 no fewer than seven Ambulance Classes were being held each week under the instruction of Dr. Murray Cairns, Dr. Llewellyn Morgan, Dr. Ernest Nevins and Dr. Mona Roberts. The members of V.A.D. No. 70 may be divided into two classes - those who became whole-time workers and as a rule received payment for their services, as this was insisted upon in Military Hospitals, and those who gave only such time as they could spare from business or home duties, and whose services were purely honorary. It is impossible for us to do justice to the work of this great detachment without enlarging upon the activities of Mrs. Girdlestone, who, to quote Sir James Barr, the County Director, "did splendid work," for which she was awarded the M.B.E. Mrs. Girdlestone seems to have devoted nine-tenths of her time to the discharge of her honorary duties, and it is certain that no paid officer could have been more conscientious in their performance. At the headquarters of the detachment, which were, as many of our readers may remember, situated in Bold-street, she interviewed every applicant for membership, and arranged the class of duty they were to undertake - arranging also for such training as might be desirable. To Mrs. Girdlestone there came appeals from military hospitals, auxiliary hospitals and a host of other branches of war service appeals for workers. Probationer nurses, sewing maids, general service, ambulance drivers, X-ray assistants, dispensers and masseuses. All these demands were satisfied as fully as possible, and so successful was V.A.D. 70 in meeting requirements that it became a regular habit for those of the authorities who were in difficulties to appeal to Mrs. Girdlestone for help. It must not be imagined that West Lancashire alone was benefited, for hospitals in various parts of this country and overseas have been supplied with workers of all classes from the personnel of V.A.D 70. Many letters have been received by Mrs. Girdlestone from hospital committees and commandants expressing their high appreciation of the help they have received.
   A large number of members of V.A.D. 70 have won distinction amongst whom must be mentioned Miss Annie Williams of Buenos Ayres, who left her home there to play her part in the great struggle, and who, after passing through the course of training provided by V.A.D. 70, was eventually drafted to the Jaw ward of a Military Hospital in France where she gained the Royal Red Cross. Miss Agnostopulo, of Alder Hey Hospital, who also achieved this distinction, is a member of V.A.D. 70. It is a matter of intense regret that space does not permit us to give a detailed account of the manifold activities of Mrs. Girdlestone and her glorious band of workers who have risen so nobly and self-sacrificingly throughout these five years of warfare to satisfy the needs of those who have suffered for the sake of the Motherland.




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