WW1 Clifton Park Racecourse Hospital Squires Gate

The Military Convalescent Hospital Blackpool

…..and how the injured soldiers arrived there……

….. and the other hospitals…..

…..and the welfare of the combatants and dependents


The battle of Mons, or rather the aftermath of the battle and the subsequent retreat of the Expeditionary Force, had a profound effect on the story of Blackpool in the war years, and for some time afterwards.

As the War started, two nation states and their allies, with unprotected pride, met each other face to face. The feared renown of the British marksmanship of the Expeditionary Force, a continuation of the Pitt Rivers era decades earlier, had come up against an efficient and numerically superior enemy in mutual slaughter. The eventual retreat of the smaller army, lasted two weeks and two hundred miles. During this retreat, the medical teams were under immense pressure, so much so that they were very close to complete collapse. With inadequate numbers of mechanised transports, the horse drawn ambulances were slow and cumbersome. Dying men had to be left behind or be captured, or mercifully shot, before the inexorable advance of the enemy. The wounded that could be transported were dragged slowly over the pitted roads, each bump of the wheels in and out of the many thousands of potholes that they had to endure, was an excruciating torture.

And, as the popular stories go for those walking men, wounded or not, they could not stop for long, and resorted to urinating in their boots to make them supple enough to walk their overworked feet. And when they arrived at a point of safety, their woollen socks often would not just slip off, but rather had to be medically removed from their feet. As the Angel of Mons looked after this beleaguered, retreating army, like the gods looked after their favourites on an ancient Greek battlefield, before they allowed it to turn and fight again, Blackpool, far away from the fighting, had no inclination of how its urban and social landscape would change because of it. There was much more of an impact  than just losing half its Squires Gate golf course to the War effort.

In the early days of the War it might have been an innocent, or perhaps conceited, belief that the soldiers would be home by Christmas, but it was only the injured that were easily allowed that privilege. Mons had exposed the inadequacy of the military medical provision, and from then the streams of wounded soldiers filled the hospital trains and ships back to Blighty, and war widows were given celebrity status for their loss. It was then evident that an adequate hospital infrastructure, beyond the already existing Red Cross facility, needed to be created. In 1915 it was proposed by Sir Alfred Keogh, brought out of retirement as Director of Medical Services, for just that purpose, to build six large convalescent hospitals, in various towns and cities, and Blackpool was chosen as one of the sites.

Within this extensive overhaul, several RAMC depots and training facilities were moved from Aldershot to Blackpool. It would soon become a military town with an advanced military convalescent hospital under an innovative and sensitive commander in the name of Colonel Netterville-Barron.

The idea of the convalescent hospitals, along with the command centres that complemented them, was to get the injured men back to a fighting force again. The popular holiday and health destination of Blackpool on the North West coast of the homeland of many, was unaware of the important role it would soon have to act out in the future progress of the continuing conflict.

Until now the Red Cross had secured buildings, equipment and staff, in many towns and cities, and this staff was supplemented by a large number of ready and willing volunteers. Existing functional hospitals, needed volunteer staff to work as cooks, launderers, cleaners and general duties, and these positions were readily filled as human communities are usually ready to respond positively in the event of a crisis.

Sir Alfred Keogh (Wikipedia; pictured about 1919) who was brought out of retirement to oversee the restructuring of the Royal Army Medical Corps to suit the requirements of modern warfare. ‘ With the skill and imagination of a born organiser, he has created the vast and complex service of doctors, ambulances, dressing-stations, hospitals, and sanitary experts which has kept the Army remarkably free from disease, has spared the wounded all needless pain, and has reduced the mortality from wounds or sickness.’ (Spectator 1918).
  The site chosen for the building of the hospital was the ailing Clifton Park racecourse   The racecourse had not been a financially successful venture and, due to over enthusiastic investment, and had lasted just four years. As Blackpool was progressively chosen as a suitable Headquarters for several RAMC depots, the struggling racecourse was taken over by the military, and converted into one of six, nationwide, convalescent homes to meet the increasing need to recycle large numbers of soldiers so they could be fit enough for service again.

The last race to be completed at the racecourse was in April 1915 and the conversion of the Racecourse into the Convalescent Hospital was begun in the last weekend of July 1915 and opened in October when the press were taken around for an inspection and promotion, and were suitably impressed. It had a capacity of about 2,500 beds, unique in the fact that it only took men from Lancashire, whatever battalion they may be fighting in. It was thought fitting that the injured soldiers should be near family and friends, which might help their recovery. The graveyard at Layton accommodated many of those who couldn’t recover, after the bodies of the relatively few soldiers who died at the Hospital had been laid out with respect in the specially built chapel on the site.

Footage of the building of the hospital; http://www.britishpathe.com/video/building-new-red-cross-hospital-at-blackpool/query/NEWS+IS+BUILDING

The price that had to be paid for the exclusion of soldiers who weren’t Lancastrians was that the Hospital had to be self-financing, and this was met by self-sufficiency, generous donation and by the tireless efforts of volunteers. The cost was channelled through a Central Fund.

Here, at Squires Gate on the boundary of Blackpool and St Annes, land had already been acquired off the Clifton estate for agriculture. Pigs were reared on part of it and another part, for pasture and rye grass, potentially an animal fodder, though not very successful here, grown on a golf course reduced to nine holes for the purpose. Golfers also lost the use of the North Shore course, as it was also put down to the cultivation of a fodder crop. Horses were extensively used during the whole length of the war and the supply, transport and treatment (both care and burial), and their fodder was a complex issue for all combatants (a horse needed much more space than a man for instance). There was a facility for stabling the horses at the large camp that mushroomed alongside the Hospital. The Royal Artillery, needing horses for pulling the gun carriages, could be seen in training in St Annes and Squires Gate where they were stationed. The horses, always the people’s friend, were not ignored by the public. In one instance of money raising, a garden fete was held by the Fylde branch of the RSPCA at Lytham Hall in aid of British sick and wounded horses. The band of  ‘The Kings Own Military Camp’ provided the music during the afternoon.

Richard Taylor was born in Blackpool, where his family lived on Vicarage Lane. Along with his brother, he signed up and joined the Lancs and Yorks, where he worked with the horses. He had worked on a farm in Lytham along with his brother and looked after the animals, delivering milk to the neighbourhood by cart. Like many soldiers, his military records don’t survive, destroyed in an air raid during the second world conflict.
61 yr old Alice Ruston, a visitor staying at the Dunes Hotel, South Shore, Blackpool, was knocked down by a mounted soldier on Squires Gate Lane near to the Convalescent Camp. She later died of wounds to the head at Victoria Hospital.
In Sep 1917 an auction at Ormskirk Lancashire fetched record prices for the sale of blind and rejected army horses. They were selling at an average price of £30 each, the highest being £65.

The racecourse would be converted at an estimated cost of £25,000, and Lieut-Col Netterville-Barron, RAMC would be in charge of the camp, and would be resident in the town. Dr Wilder of S. Shore, the long established general practitioner, was the civilian medic involved.  By November 1915 Surgeon General E. A. Sutton who, having been in command at the Aldershot depot, and who was called back from Salonika where he had been ‘D.D.M.S. (Deputy Director Medical Services), lines of communication’, took up the post as Surgeon General.

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Colonel Willie Netterville Barron (1872-1930).  C.M.G., M.V.O., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. (Eng.) [Epsom College 1886-1890. Rugby XV. Ann Hood and Gardiner Prizes] was the son of Dr G. E. Barron of Windsor, Berkshire. He received his medical training at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, where he was a Scholarship winner. After qualification, he entered the R.A.M.C. and reached the rank of Colonel. During the First World War (1914-1918) he served on the staff of the D.G.A.M.S. in France (1914), was Commandant of the King’s Lancashire Military and Convalescent Hospital, Blackpool (1915), and Officer in Charge of the Colchester General Military Hospital (1918). When serving in India with the R.A.M.C. he was appointed Plague Officer. He was Surgeon Apothecary to the Household of T.R.H. Prince and Princess Christian, at Frogmore House, Windsor, and Honorary Physician and Surgeon at Ascot Hospital. He won the 100 and 220 yards at the United Hospitals Athletic Championships.

One of the Colonel’s first appointments was to attend the Great Eccleston Show of September 1915. At the luncheon speeches, the president, Mr T B Silcock expressed the difficulties faced by agriculture during ‘these hard times’ not only in Britain but also on the Continent when he appealed for contributions to the ‘Relief of Allies’ fund. The war that should have been won by Christmas, might with hope be finished by next Christmas. Colonel Barron when it was his turn to speak, described the situation of the soldiers and hospitals in France and alluded to the good work that the Convalescent Hospital at Blackpool was starting to do, and would do, as time progressed though France, he admitted, was not the  nicest of places to send back the recovered soldiers.

The reflective nature of ‘Willie’ Barron is made apparent in his play, ‘The Three Brothers’, which was premiered at the Opera House in Blackpool. A mystery play set in the Middle Ages, it used the different natures of three brothers, in love with the same girl, to demonstrate the conflict of the human spirit. It was an army play, in which the sets, the performers the lyrics, costumes and the music all originated from within the Convalescent Hospital. Colonel Barron was responsible for the script, along with Lieutenants FC Coulter and Newberry Choyce, and the music was composed by rifleman Betts (who, trained in church music, and went on to perform professionally after the War). Scenery and properties were by Mr D Spink and Sgt J Kelly. The cast included a number of officers.

In July 1918 and speaking after distributing the prizes in connection with the Blackpool Secondary School held at the North Pier Pavilion, Colonel Barron alluded to the War, claiming that a lesson from the War was that if millions could be spent in killing, then we could equally attempt to spend the same on making life worth living, so that the young generation of today could lead the path to freedom in the future. He reprised the idea of a need for the formation of a Governmental Department of Health, and claimed that the reluctance to create one was down to departmental jealousies. He had seen in the military how successful the often innovative medical efforts of the RAMC at the Kings Lancashire Military Hospital had been, and to put this into civilian life was to him, a natural and sensible progression. Education was the key to all this, and he urged the nation to spend more on education and teachers’ salaries.

He maintained that the recreational side of health needed proper recognition in the civilian life of peace time, when undreamed of heights of living could be achieved. He had seen the soldiers march past at the military camp and had despaired at the fact that many suffered from ill-health. Physical exercise was an important element on the successful agenda of the Military Convalescent Hospital at Squires Gate.

Of course history shows that the generation he was addressing, was to be immersed in another world war in which limited, selfish idealism would attempt to push itself forward towards world hegemony, and the same element would have to defend itself against it.

His belief in education running parallel with good physical health was further expressed in his creation of a ‘khaki’ college for soldiers. By 1918, under this auspice and imagination, this college was provided in St Annes, situated in apartments where about 150 offices were educated in variety of academic subjects. There were 25 different classes including languages, psychology, maths and literature, and 35 lecturers in some cases the officers being taught by the lower ranks, in a kind of interesting role-reversal. The extensive library of the Camp hut at Squires Gate was put at their disposal.

The idea of the convalescent camps was to make convalescents rapidly fit for duty overseas, and this ideally should take six to eight weeks. Soldiers were recycled, much as cardboard and plastic is recycled today, as quickly and efficiently as possible so that they could be sent back overseas and this was not lost on the critics of the war.

The stands of the racecourse were fitted out to include a dining room, stores, treatment room and, behind these, an immense kitchen where up to 200 dinners at a time could be cooked.

In the centre of the square, seven buildings, each capable of holding twenty beds, and fitted with hot and cold baths with shower sprays, were erected, whilst recreation grounds, games rooms, gymnasiums and the like, were being provided on a generous scale.

 During its proposal and construction, Colonel Barron suggested that it should be named the County Palatine Hospital, or the Lancashire County Military Hospital. The final decision, after receiving the King’s permission, was to call it, The King’s Lancashire Military Hospital. The deal with this was that if the hospital was to be for Lancashire soldiers alone (whatever regiment they may be in), then the funding should ideally be local and a central fund, along with its Executive Committee, was set up in Blackpool.

The Executive Committee for this Central Fund for the hospital, whose chairman was Mr JP Dixon, (the benevolent business man of Marton Mount in the town) had ‘collected and controlled’ over £3,000, but more money was needed ‘for more buildings, the provision of games and comforts, a large hall for the provision of writing tables, reading and as a general smoking room, with a billiard room attached.’ Also it required an ‘indoor playground and drill ground’ for use especially when the land was wet, and ‘a miniature rifle range and skittle alley etc.’

The fund was to be administered by the Executive Committee, the Treasurer of which was Sir Harcourt Clare, County Offices Preston. Cheques and contributions were to be sent to the Manager, London City and Midland Bank, Blackpool, or any of their branches.

The appeal had the signatures of Lord Shuttleworth, Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire; Mr EG Wood, High Sheriff; Mr W S Barrett chairman of the Lancashire County Council, and the Lord Mayors of Manchester and Liverpool.

The running costs of the Hospital were funded jointly by the Citizens Committee of Blackpool, the Church of England Temperance Society and the YMCA. These donations were in order to assist in the equipping of the gymnasium, and Lord Derby issued a personal appeal to the Mayors of Lancashire boroughs and other influential people for assistance towards the equipment of other departments, which included electro-medical treatment, massage, physical drill, systematic regulated exercises and appropriate games. The King himself contributed £100 towards the fund.

Funding was highly successful and, for as long as the Hospital existed, it was largely self-sufficient. As well as local donation, it survived financially by the sale of its own products and services and the ingenuity of those who conducted its business. The towns of Lancashire assumed an enthusiastic and generous role in the collection of funds. Flag days were popular ways of raising monies. The Royal Liver Friendly Society in its conference at Blackpool voted sums of money for war orientated charities which included the three main hospitals (Fleetwood, Lytham and Blackpool) and £25 for the Military Convalescent Hospital.

The accounts of the Fund for 1917 show that over £9,000 was received in donations, £2,000 from the Loos trenches attraction, over £1,300 from the Manchester flag day and £249 from the Fylde flag day. Other entertainments raised £386 and a concert party, over £1500.

The balance sheet shows a running loss of a single penny (less than 1p).

In May 1916 before the formal opening of the newly constructed St Annes open air baths, a concert was held, attended by about 2,000 people and from which most of the proceeds would go to the Convalescent Hospital Squires Gate

By 1918, the mayor of Liverpool, Major John Utting, feeling that Liverpool had not done enough for the Hospital, and certainly, it seemed not as much as Manchester, launched an appeal to rouse local interest in which he praised the innovations and the successes of the hospital in its state of the art equipment in treating both physical and psychological injuries. He was looking to raise at least £8,000 for the Central Fund.

The annual cost of the electro-medical department was at least £4,000 and, as well funding that somewhat innovative department, there was the gymnasium, miniature rifle range, the boarded area (the sandy soil soon became waterlogged) for an outdoor parade and playground, a skittle alley and a large workshop where the men could learn a trade.

The whole idea of the Hospital was a curative one, and was run with military efficiency and funded by both public generosity in money and kind and the entirely voluntary nature of the administration of the Central Fund, where no payment was received for the status of office or for work carried out.

There was an innovative way to cure the soldier’s flat foot, (a result of the wet conditions of the trenches) the only one of its kind in existence, such were the forward thinking ideas and practices of the Hospital. It was a ladder, laid flat upon the floor in the hot room, a room kept at a temperature of around 75 degrees, where sweating in the accompanying rowing and the muscle developing machines, was considered conducive to beneficial results.

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The Nursing Staff of the Hospital
The first if the VAD nurses to report for duty at the Hospital was 16 year old Florence Palethorpe, who, having left Thames Rd Council school, worked as a dental assistant before volunteering.

The treatment consisting of electro-medical courses, massage, physical training (PT), was considered more of a religion than an exercise, and drill and games – which also included ‘gusto’, a game created by Netterville-Barron himself. Its highly physical and muscular content and exertion, was considered appropriate for those men who were soon to be discharged and sent back to the fighting.

There was also the concern for the spiritual health and mental well-being of the patients, in the early days of psychotherapy where ‘shell-shock’ was coined by the medical profession to describe the state of those affected. Paths and gardens were laid out, and the open spaces of the bowling greens and cricket pitches lent toward a pleasant and therapeutic background. A Welcome Hut, with tea and coffee for new arrivals, and where the soldiers could also entertain their visiting friends and family, was provided free of charge, and run entirely by female volunteers, day in and day out. The concept of physical health so evident in modern day thought was nevertheless only in its infancy at this time. It was eulogised by the military in connection with the Hospital and there was an undercurrent scream for the creation of a Ministry of Health at Government level to oversee the concept on a national scale.

The construction of the gymnasium for the Hospital was carried out with both efficiency of use and finance in mind. The word ‘gymnasium’ was used to describe a building that not only functioned as a gymnasium, but also a concert hall, a chapel, a writing room and whatever usefulness it could provide. As well as the gym equipment, vaulting horses and the like, there were also two full size badminton courts marked out upon the floor. In the evening it would become a cinema when collapsible chairs stored at the side of the wall, provided seating for 1,000. At other regular times the room would become a concert hall and the Camp band would provide the entertainment for friends and family visitors. The theatricals were provided almost entirely by the men themselves, and the stage was properly supplied with curtains and footlights. On Sunday morning the room assumed the identity of a traditional Christian church and services were conducted.

The Hospital was the most advanced in the country, using the most modern ideas and technological advances of electro and hydro massage, physical exercise, and neurological research. The Blackpool Neurological Section for officers, King’s Lancashire Military Convalescent Hospital was operating by June 1918.

However, where commercialism is concerned they can do much better, and they didn’t need to explain on the label what their product contained.  It just worked. But you had to buy it first.  An advert in the newspapers of September 1919 (actually after the Convalescent Hospital had been closed down, and was run by the Ministry of Pensions and not the military).

British Newbritish newspapers via findmypast
WT Bygrave late Signaller 9th Norfolk Regiment. ‘I was serving in France during the last twelve months of the War and saw a great deal of heavy fighting, and was constantly under shell fire, the effects of which partly shattered my nerves. I was badly gassed and suffered the effects of concussion. I saw your advertisement in the News of the World and I thought I would give Phosferine a trial. Before taking Phosferine my hands shook and the least noise irritated me. I could not sleep at night but after taking Phosferine for about two months, my complaints disappeared, to the surprise of my acquaintances who thought I was going to be a chronic invalid. I can highly recommend Phosferine.
46 Langley Street Norwich
british newspapers via findmypast
It’s a good guess that his article has been influenced or even edited, by the promotional team of Phosferine. Its claim as a panacea and a cure-all, might have easily convinced the soldiers desperate for a cure for what would now be described as PTSD, but drugs were not the first line of defence – they were even anathema – to the therapy practised by the Kings Lancashire Hospital.

The places at the Hospital were for those men who had sufficiently recovered from their hospital treatment at other centres, those other hospitals that specialised in their particular injuries. .

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The grandstand of the Racecourse having been converted into the main building of the Hospital.
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Up to 200 dinners at a time could be cooked in the kitchen.
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The number of beds varies depending on the source of the quote. There were also ‘out patients’, usually officers, who were accommodated in the town, and who weren’t in need of beds for overnight stays.
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An expansive view of the Hospital and its grounds, revealing something of its large size.
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The band regularly performed at events in the gymnasium, and the Grand Theatre in the town and anywhere a band was needed. All proceeds went to the running of the Convalescent Hospital. They marched the first US medics into the town from their arrival at North station and played the last solemn tunes to those soldiers, with the coffins carried on a gun carriage and draped with the Union Jack, on their way to the cemetery and provided the Last Post at the graveside. It was the Regimental stretcher bearers (SB’s) that were often musicians but RAMC stretcher bearers were selected from the fittest A1’s. Along with the ‘Wounded Soldier’s Concert Party’, they also toured and played to packed houses within Lancashire where the funding was coming from. Tickets for the event at the Mechanics Hall Burnley in Jan 1918 were 1s (5p) and 1s 6d (7½p). The group had had a successful event in the previous November and would arrive with entirely new material.

New arrivals came to the Lancaster Hut, popularly known as the Welcome Hut. They would be made to feel at home and were issued with their hospital clothing and essentials and they would receive cigarettes, walking sticks and beverages.

There was a barber’s shop on the premises as well as a tobacco shop, since smoking was prevalent, its carcinogenic nature not yet indicated. Both shops were run on business lines and a small charge was made for each, saving the men from having to go into the town for their supplies.

During the month of September in 1917 in the writing room, 23,000 letters were written on 80 reams of paper and 31,790 envelopes posted in the box inside the room. There were also 12,600 penny stamps and 1800 ha’penny stamps used. Everything was free apart from the stamps, it appears.

The Billiard room with several tables was erected by the Church of England Temperance Society and was a popular meeting place. A second hut, the Blackburn, was erected by the YMCA in 1915. This was financed by Blackburn YMCA who in July 1917 had raised over £2,000 for the Convalescent Camp.

The Recreation Room, fitted out with tables and chairs was used for dominoes, chess, draughts and other table games and pursuits.

A Central block, facing the Parade Ground, housed the kitchens, a nurses’ sitting room and Matron’s quarters , two wards, one for surgery and one for medical cases, stores, a dispensary, an officers’ massage department and a boiler house which served the whole of the building. It was connected to the Recreation Room by a covered walkway.


Beyond the camp buildings there were 30 acres of spare land which was turned to agriculture both for exercise and profit. The loan acquired from the Central fund was quickly repaid with the proceeds in its first season of 1916.

There was healthy rivalry between the four divisions, A,B,C,D, into which the land and the administration of the Hospital was structured.

The treatment needed to be, ‘not only well, but hard and fit for all the severe strain of forced marches and long periods in the trenches.’

Private James Powell, of Wiggington, Grenadier Guards was gassed on July 25th 1917 and ‘is now in hospital at Squires Gate Blackpool.’ It is now November 1917 and James would probably be convalescing after hospital treatment. His brother Sapper ArthurPowell was severely injured in the hand in an accident at work in France.
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In June 1919 William Vaughan Evans, a Private in the 1/6th Black Watch was sent to prison for three months for stealing a suit (valued at £7), and also a sum of money. He had borrowed the suit off Joseph Cavanagh, who was at the Squires Gate camp with him as a convalescent, and claimed he needed the suit for a photograph. He also borrowed 10s (50p) off Thomas Robinson of St Annes, claiming he was Lt Douglas, a singer at the Grand Hotel St Annes, and he had left his money in his purse in his suit back at Squires Gate Camp. He had many previous convictions. As a character witness his captain, McGrath, said his military character was decidedly bad.
In August 1919 Louis Goldstein of London was accused at St Annes of unlawfully wearing a soldier’s uniform. His plea was that he had a brother in the RAMC who was at the Convalescent Camp at Squires Gate. His brother Lazarus, had been given leave but had absconded and Louis, sympathetic to the plight of his brother Lazarus, who was weak and frail (presumably due to war experience) and he had decided to take his place. They looked very much alike. Louis was fined £10 and request to volunteer for the Russian campaign was ignored. The War had finished in 1918 but, long live the war, another one had begun in the frozen seas of Russia

Medicine was innovative and adventurous, according to the military mind set, and was geared to results. There was a great emphasis on electro-massage and hydro-therapy.

The massage was applied by qualified personnel originating from the Almeric Paget Massage Corps (APMC) created and financed privately in 1914 by Mr and Mrs Almeric Paget. As a forerunner of physiotherapy, it achieved great success, absorbed into the army and later entitled The Almeric Paget Military Massage Corps (APMMC). The Corps provided trained masseuses free of charge to the hospitals, and when Sir Alfred Keogh visited the London headquarters, he was suitably impressed, and sanctioned their use in the convalescent hospitals.

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Niccoll Searanck and Miss Cattanach wearinig the badge of the APMC, the Almeric Paget Massage Corps.

Shock treatment was applied in cases of shell shock and whirlpool baths were used for hydro-therapy treatments. If the whirlpool baths predated the Jacuzzi, then the hot rooms reinstituted the principle of the sudatorium in the Roman bathhouse, where sweating eased out the dirt and assisted in the skin healing process of wounds. The room was kept at a steady 75 degrees and exercises were undertaken as well as using rowing machines and the like.

Each Convalescent Camp had a Massage Institute where massage, physical exercise, muscle extension, heat treatment, vibrational treatment and electrical and chemical treatment were administered. 32 masseuses would treat 25 patients each per day, attending to 4 patients each simultaneously. The most common treatments were bathing, massage and special exercises for trench foot, electric shock treatment and Swedish exercise (light physical exercises, created in Sweden which included warm ups and called Swedish because it had become popular in the US at the end of the 19th century) for functional paralysis resulting from shell shock and daily exercise for those recovering from gassing. Corps members also changed dressings. It was conducted in the days before antibiotics, though the collection of sphagnum moss, which contained a mild natural antibiotic, (and was big business) had that purpose. The Corps conducted experiments with electric currents, it being believed the bacteria might gravitate to the positive pole.

The Corps service dress uniform was navy blue, comprising ankle length skirt, jacket and felt hat. A white shirt and black tie were worn and the Corps badge was embroidered on the jacket. The ward uniform was white with the Corps badge on the headdress.

While the soldiers might have enjoyed the ‘hands on’, treatment (though this was generally with electro-equipment) the work of the masseuse was serious. Long hours were worked, and it required good and consistent depths of concentration throughout.




Everything was recorded in the Record Office, from treatments to misdemeanours, to coming in late, and visitors’ passes were issued from here to all those who had a legitimate reason to visit. The Records Office was the all-seeing eyes and the all-hearing ears of the Hospital





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The YMCA had an important role in the war, and was equally represented in Blackpool, providing both material and spiritual comforts. Some YMCA posts were directly in the war zone, made from makeshift materials and staffed  by volunteers. The YMCA had its presence on the Fylde Coast and in Blackpool, at Squires Gate.

http://www.amounderness.co.uk  (and photo below)
The YMCA hut opened at the Squires Gate military hospital during the first week of November 1915. Two convalescent ‘blues’ stand either side of a seated nurse. A soldier in khaki to the right.
The interior of the hut

In 1916 M E Llwyd Jones of Rochdale had been working for the YMCA Pavilion and had been kept much occupied. The hut had been quite a busy place, ‘some 20,000 letters had been posted in the letter box in the last month’ (June).
In 1928, Mrs Penelope Winder, Superintendent of the YMCA, Blackpool was awarded ‘Member of the Civil Division’ for her war work.

Not everyone survived the camp. There were those who didn’t make it through, and those that did were perhaps only lucky enough to go away again to be killed – or severely injured once more.

In December 1914, Cornelius Crabtree of the Kings Own Royal Lancashire was found dead in bed at the Camp. He had been injured in action and had been brought home to hospital and then to convalesce at Blackpool, his home town. In evident good health he went to bed and the flowing morning was found dead.  Death was due to natural causes, but a lower vitality caused by ‘his wound and the strain of military duties’ was also a contributory factor. His address is given as 34 Preston Old Road, and he left a widow. He was 36 years old.
In September 1917, John Callaghan RAMC fell from the roof of the stables at Squires Gate camp when he went up to repair a hole in the roof. He had evidently collapsed and died upon the roof and the fall was a consequence. His death was judged to be from natural causes, and not due to a shell wound received while on active service. He was 47 years old, single, and his home address was 43 Breck Rd Liverpool.

And when life continued, it was subject to the agreed rules of human community via the established laws.

In September 1917 the Army and Navy Canteen Board prosecuted Horace Scotton, the army canteen manager at the Convalescent Hospital, for selling sugar from the Hospital to Albert Roberts, well known ice-cream vendor. The case was dismissed as it was shown to be a misunderstanding, and the soldiers would now be assured of their ice cream supply ahead of the late summer rush of holiday makers, since Albert Roberts was the supplier to the canteen.
In November 1917, Joseph Crowder, Acting Regimental Sergeant Major of the RAMC, was dismissed from a charge of stealing a quantity of tent pegs from the Camp, the property of the Secretary of State for War. It was believed he had sold them to the Health laundry at Marton, where they had been seen by Sergeant Major J Lambert RAMC. When the evidence was given, the transaction was shown to be a bona fide one, and Joseph Crowder shown to be an honest man by his superiors.

In October 1915, relatives had already begun to visit the soldiers at the newly opened Convalescent Hospital, coming from all parts of the country. The central Fund paid for these fares, and any relative wishing to visit should apply to Miss Chynoweth, secretary, Lancashire Military Convalescent Home, Squires Gate, South Shore, Blackpool.

From Sep 1915 to Aug 1919, 5,734 officers and nearly 32,000 men were treated at the Hospital.

When Colonel Barron left in 1918 to take up a post at Colchester Hospital, Col Henry Shea took over.

In 1919 the Hospital was taken over by the Ministry of Pensions and lost it’s military status.


 The fact that the soldiers at the camp were still sane and up and running is a great compliment to the human spirit and all those connected to looking after and caring for it. When the Hospital was opened, both The Somme and Passchendaele, were yet to happen, and which some of the repaired soldiers would eventually experience. Both these battles were a million miles away from the frivolities and entertainment of Blackpool Promenade.

As time went on, the number of variously categorised injured soldiers, most with a harrowing story to tell of their time in conflict, increased. When resident at the convalescent hospitals, they were identified by their military issue blue jackets and trousers, white shirts and red ties and were a familiar feature in the town.

From the Front the wounded would have come from many different directions. Off the battlefield they would be carried bleeding, filthy and in pain, be treated or assessed at the nearest dressing station and then endure an interminable journey on difficult, rutted bumpy roads to a base hospital behind the lines. A hospital train and a hospital ship would bring them back to Blighty where, at their allotted hospital, one specialising in the soldier’s particular type of wound, they would be initially treated. Here, the treatment begun, or merely identified, by the medics in the field, would be continued. Once they had been declared fit enough, they would then be transferred to a convalescent hospital, and those men from Lancashire came to the King’s Lancashire Convalescent Hospital at Squire’s Gate, Blackpool.

Here, after their introduction at the Welcome Hut and their reception into their allotted billets at the Camp, they would eventually receive their uniform.

Wellcome Library

The Lancaster Hut (aka the Welcome Hut; ) where 80,000 refreshments were served by the volunteer ladies in 1917 alone. The men would arrive to be greeted by a friendly staff of these volunteer ladies, who would provide tea and refreshments. They would also get their walking sticks and cigarettes from here. They had arrived from various specialist hospitals, and would be clean and mostly repaired, and ready for the last stage of recuperation which would be their convalescence here. Those soldiers arriving directly from the front to their allotted specialist hospital, would be exhausted after a long and difficult journey, would be dirty and lice-ridden, without a change of clothes for days or weeks. But here, they were fit enough to resume convalescence, after which they would be physically fit enough to fight again.

While the men were being refreshed in the Welcome hut, the administrators would be sorting out their billets in one of the huts for them. It all worked like military clockwork.

In March 1920, Mrs Agnes Elizabeth Dawson, Superintendant of the Welcome Hut Blackpool received an award for war work, as a ‘Member of the Civil Division’.

The regulation, blue uniform that was issued to these convalescents was an identifying, hospital, uniform consisting of a blue, single-breasted jacket with a white lining – worn open at the neck – blue trousers, a white shirt and a red tie. To complete the outfit he wore his own khaki service cap with its regimental badge. The suit was also known as the ‘blue invalid uniform’, ‘hospital suit’ and ‘hospital blues’. Officer casualties did not have to wear the blue suit, but instead, retained their service uniform.

There were both good and bad aspects to the wearing the suit. It could be worn proudly, or there was some indignation at having to wear it. Issued in only two sizes, it was a matter of luck if it was a good fit, and it usually wasn’t. Cuffs or trousers turn-ups might have to be rolled back, revealing the white inner lining, not a sartorial ideal. The lack of pockets, in which a man could have carried his tobacco and pipe was similar to denying a woman the carrying of a handbag and all the personal things she keeps within it.

The advantages of the suit were that the injured soldiers could walk the streets without being subject to the jeers and insults of cowardice, or having a white feather waved in their faces by those who would think it cowardice to keep way from the fighting.

There were regulations for drinking alcohol. In January 1916, Charles Crewe who was the licensee of the County and Lanes End Hotel had contravened the Defence of the Realm Act by serving beer to two convalescent soldiers. His fine of £100 was commuted to 40 shillings (£2) after the defence had argued that the soldiers had had their great coats over their blue uniforms as they had ordered their drinks. Seems like it is ok to drink alcohol but not to serve it. The barmaid had been conveniently given the blame for serving it.

In June 1918, Robert Northcolt, a convalescent at the Squires Gate Hospital used to break camp every night to go to the love nest of his partner Emily Allen of Highfield Rd. He would return to camp in the early hours every morning. He told Emily he was a Corporal in the RAF. One night he turned violent and assaulted her and took jewellery £78 10s (£78.50) and left for London to dispose of it.

On December 28th 1916, about 100 convalescent soldiers were entertained by Mr and Mrs Shaffer at the Station Coffee Palace. This took place at the same time as the annual event for ‘crippled’ children, organised by the ‘Crippled Children’s Fund’. The Station Coffee Palace, situated opposite Central Station at Hounds Hill, was a high class establishment which could serve up exquisite meals. Owned by Clarke and Heap, it consisted of several rooms on two floors and provided spacious room for dining and entertainment. It was the venue for conferences of several organisations and societies. The children were given free rides on the trams or even picked up from their homes to be taken to the event. Several of the artistes from the Palace theatre gave their time and energies to entertain them.

british newspapers via findmypast

Mr and Mrs Shaffer, of 199 Hornby Rd were established members of the town’s Jewish community, and Mr Mark Shaffer was a magistrate in the town. In 1916 they were present at the opening of the new synagogue. In June 1917 in order to assist the mayor’s fund for British prisoners abroad, Mrs Shaffer played a barrel organ in the main streets and Promenade to draw the attention and the money of the holidaymakers. In the first two days she had made £50.


Motor Ambulances and Ambulance Trains

During the retreat from Mons in the first few weeks of the war, the medical services of the British Expeditionary Force were close to collapse, dying and injured men having to be left behind by their desperate comrades. It was then that Alfred Keogh was brought out of retirement to conduct affairs. A reorganisation took place which not only included the provision of the military convalescent hospitals (and the other hospitals) but also the provision of the much needed motor ambulance and hospital trains.

There was a cry to replace the horse drawn ambulance with a motor vehicle, which was faster, and usually a smoother ride. On the 2nd October once this plea via the British Red Cross had been published in the Times donations came in thick and fast. Within a week, donations had reached £9,000 and the promise of 143 motor-ambulances was on the cards. The public response to The Times appeal was tremendous, and soon charitable organisations and commercial companies, trade organisations and societies, schools and universities were raising money for the cause.

As the war progressed, much of the ambulance work on the lines of communication and at the bases, was taken over by lady members of voluntary aid detachments. They acted as both as drivers and mechanics. 

Like the demonstration tanks, (Julian at Blackpool), which had later toured the towns and cities to attract funding later on in the war, both motor ambulances and hospital trains toured the country also. The train exhibited at Blackpool had been provided by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company.

The displays highlighted modern technology, hygiene, comfort and the latest medical equipment and they proved a great attraction.


The following three photos are from https://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/lifestyle/nostalgia/when-the-great-war-ambulance-train-visited-blackpool-1-6392754


A typical ambulance train, and the one in Blackpool constructed by the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway company, to the order of the War Office, consisted of 16 carriages of specific functions in a total length of 313 yards (a little more than 286 metres), and a weight of 492 imperial tons. It consisted of a brake van with stores, a kitchen van with three cooks, four ward cars with bunk accommodation for 144 lying down casualties (increased if casualties were sitting up cases), a staff car for four medical offices and four nurses, a car for infectious cases (16 lying down and 64 sitting up) and a personnel car for 32 persons. A total of 434 people was increased to 638, if more sitting down than lying down casualties. The trains were painted khaki with a red cross on the sided of each car. Inside, the ward cars were enamelled white. The train carried 2733 gallons of that greatest essential, water.


The pictures below are intimated as Blackpool but not proven.  Whether they are or not, they do represent the interest of the crowds.



The reality of the hospital trains was a little different from the promotion. Despite the special attentions of the nurses and the medics on the trains themselves, both ammunition trains and troop trains had priority over them and they could be standing still at a station or siding for days on end until cleared to move on. At the stations, the men waiting for the train in the first place could be lying for days with little help from the overworked medical staff at nearby hospitals. Cue the unselfish, volunteer help to fill the gap, who provided drinks, comforts, cigarettes and solace during these long waits.

Not all the trains were as well equipped as the ones on show, and different types of injury needed different types of consideration.



The Army Spectacle Depot was established in January 1916 as so many recruits were found to have poor vision. Some of the work of the Depot was carried out in Blackpool.

Along with the military drive to produce and maintain men fit enough for active service, came the idea of making those with poor eyesight able to fight with spectacles. The wearing of spectacles still carried a social stigma, but the War, or rather the need for as any men as possible to fight the war, helped to change that. The National Eye Service, as well as the Opthalmologist publication, (which celebrated its centenary in 2016), originated during the War. In the mind-set of the day, a soldier with glasses was far better than no soldier at all.

‘Originally spectacles were expected to be a private purchase rather than an army issue but after the onset of War, when manpower increased in value, spectacles were issued in order to upgrade the classification of the soldier. This would release more men for the front either directly or indirectly. An upgraded soldier could take over the office duties of a fitter soldier thus releasing him to fight, or upgrading himself enough to be able to fight in some capacity in glasses. Thousands of standard army spectacles were issued and there were many bespectacled soldiers before the end of the war.’

The British Army Spectacle Depot’s superintendent was John Hamer Sutcliffe OBE. Spectacles were despatched by post from Clifford’s Inn Hall,  London. Most of the distribution work was carried out at The British Army Spectacle Department here, where a hundred girls worked on the lenses and frames, but there was much work carried out in Blackpool (‘though I haven’t yet been able to determine what that work consisted of; there is a reference to a state owned factory there in the links below’). Here the warehouse staff  look after the ophthalmological equipment and the million lenses t check for blemishes. the artificial eye department which employed six to eight girls had a stock  of 30,000 eyes which supplied the military hospitals. ‘Since January 1916, 290,000 pairs of spectacles have been supplied and the estimation was that 130,000 men had been raised to higher categories and 80,000 who would otherwise have been rejected for army service. The Artificial Eye Service, to which the Depot’s name would be changed, owes its origins to that work. It is located in new premises on Bristol Ave, Bispham, Blackpool, and provides the NHS with its artificial eyes.

Glasses had been going for a long time and it wasn’t unique for a footballer to wear glasses while playing. Jim (Fred) Mitchell, Blackpool’s soldier-keeper still wore them and at the time in 1918 (having returned to the side after war service). He was probably the only example left.

The Convalescent Centre

After the Armistice of 11/11/18, the convalescent hospital was relinquished of the duty of taking in new arrivals from the theatres of conflict. The injured soldiers would no longer arrive in droves. But there was still an organised and effective demobilisation to conduct, a transfer to other hospitals which no longer needed to be under military control, and the long term consideration of the brutally mutilated, the limbless, the blind and the emotionally shattered in spirit of those affected by the traumas. While some of the buildings were decommissioned and sold off from the Convalescent Hospital, some remained and evolved into the Convalescent Centre, itself which had a relatively short life.

The King’s Lancashire Convalescent Centre, at Squire’s Gate, for the treatment and training of disabled soldiers was formally opened in February 1920 by the Minister of Pensions, Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, Bart., in the presence of a ‘large and representative gathering of ladies and gentlemen’, who assembled in the Gymnasium.

Prior to the opening ceremony the Minister of Pensions, accompanied by a host of advisers and those connected with the funding of the Centre, made a tour of inspection of the various departments. Colonel Shea, the Medical Superintendent of the Centre, and Mr. Frank Thornley, B.A., the Chief Training Officer, escorted the company and explained the respective trades in which the men were seen at work. Colonel F. H. Shea (who had taken over from Col Netterville-Barron who had taken up a post at Colchester Hospital) presided over the meeting in the Gymnasium, and there was a strong platform of representative gentlemen connected with the Ministry of Pensions, Council of the Central Fund, as well as Mr. A. L. Parkinson, M.P., the Mayor of Blackpool (Coun. E. H. Howe), the Town Clerk (Mr. D. L. Harbottle).

The central fund of the Convalescent Hospital would continue to finance the camp.

The Kings Lancashire Convalescent Centre was the first of its kind in the country.While the Hospital was under military control after the armistice, the soldiers sent there were uncomfortable and aggrieved that they should still be subject to military discipline.

The centre didn’t appear to have had a comfortable or successful history. The disquiet of the men reached parliament where questions were asked as to the suitability of the conditions. When the pensions department took over, the camp relinquished its military status and converted to a more relaxed atmosphere and Colonel Shea, who was to continue there until 1923, was in charge but, despite his military standing, did not wear uniform but wore civvies instead to promote a more relaxed atmosphere in the Camp. There were no drills and the convalescents weren’t subject to military discipline.

In 1920 Frederick Harrison was arrested at the Convalescent centre where he had worked in the kitchens since his demobilisation. He was accused of the attempted murder of Martha Houghton on the sand hills, near to the site of the 1913 murder of Kathleen Breaks. A regular on the sand hills for the purpose of picking up women, Frederick Harrison’s charge was later dropped as a case of mistaken identity.
In June 1919 William Vaughan Evans, a Private in the 1/6th Black Watch was sent to prison for three months for stealing a suit (valued at £7), and also a sum of money. He had borrowed the suit off Joseph Cavanagh, who was at the Squires Gate camp with him as a convalescent, and claimed he needed the suit for a photograph. He also borrowed 10s (50p) off Thomas Robinson of St Annes, claiming he was Lt Douglas, a singer at the Grand Hotel St Annes, and he had left his money in his purse in his suit back at Squires Gate Camp. He had many previous convictions. As a character witness his captain, McGrath, said his military character was decidedly bad.
In August 1919 Louis Goldstein of London was accused at St Annes of unlawfully wearing a soldier’s uniform. His plea was that he had a brother in the RAMC who was at the Convalescent Camp at Squires Gate. His brother Lazarus, had been given leave but had absconded and Louis, sympathetic to the plight of his brother Lazarus, who was weak and frail (presumably due to war experience) and he had decided to take his place. They looked very much alike. Louis was fined £10 and a request to volunteer for the Russian campaign was ignored. The War had finished in 1918 but, long live the war, another one had begun in the frozen seas of Russia, and yet another being created in the Middle East. In 1920 George Henderson recipient of the VC and an ex Rossall scholar was killed in an uprising in Basra, fighting the ‘insurgents’of a homeland defined by alien powers.

Much, however, at the Centre would remain the same. The YMCA and the Church of England Temperance Society would continue their valuable work and both the Lancaster and the Welcome Huts would continue ‘to give a hearty welcome to the men upon their arrival’. The injured disabled and discharged soldiers would remain in the centre for 6-12 months, and would have their own rooms and a common dining room. The men would have treatments and receive an education and training in trades, aimed at helping them find employment after they leave. A man received 21s (£1.5p) a week, with everything provided except clothing. His family would also receive a separation allowance.

The first contingent of 30 arrived on 25 November 1919 and were welcomed by the same volunteer ladies in the welcome Hut with tea and food. The population would eventually swell to 600, then 1,000.

This picture is from the booklet describing the original funding of the Hospital, and the the roofing appears to be the underneath of the stands of the former racecourse. However, the civilian nature of the workshop appears more to relate to the Convalescent Camp rather than the hospital it was derived from.



Wellcome Library






ARMY MEDICAL SERVICE. R.A.M.C. — Maj. (actg. Lt.-Col.) Henry F. Shea, D.S.O., M.B., to be actg. Col. whilst specially employed. 26th Nov. 1918.


ROYAL ARMY’ MEDICAL CORPS. Lt.-Col. Henry F. Shea, D.S.O., M.B., is restd. to the estabt. 1st Sept. 1923




The Dismantling of the Hospital and the Camp

Most of the building and materials were dismantled when no longer functional. Most of the site became the Squires gate Airport by the 1930’s. Some of the buildings remained in use with different functions until the 1950’s.

At one o’clock on the 19th November 1919, the auctioneers, John A Banks, put up for bidding 25 wood and corrugated buildings and fixtures. These buildings ranged from 50′ x 10’ to 10′and included the iron stove and flues, plumbing and several thousand bricks. Five of the corrugated buildings had been used by the WAAC.

A cash only sale on 13th September 1920 saw the public auction of a wood hutment, 100′ x 12′, which had had a secondary use as a Post Office and part of which was currently in use as a bank, the tenant’s rights being respected in the sale terms.

The following  extracts are from british newspapers via findmypast

Sep 11 1920;



Nov 18 1918;




This is the RAMC camp, which was largely tented accommodation. RAMC units reverted to Aldershot and one went to the (later notorious) Ballykinlar camp in Ireland.



April 11 1919;




More of the RAMC camp goes up for auction.






Acknowledgements and sources;-


Most of the images are available through internet research and are in the public domain.

Much of the information has been derived from contemporary newspaper reports.

Lancashire Evening Post, Friday 27 February 1920






http://wellcomelibrary.org/ Some of the illustrations come from  ‘A description of the work of the central fund on behalf of the wounded in the King’s Lancashire Military Convalescent Hospital, compiled by Edward Leech’ and available through the Wellcome Library.


Relaxing on the beach 1917.  Wounded soldiers in blue uniforms on the beach;   http://www.itnsource.com/es/specials/ww1/shotlist//BHC_RTV/1917/08/02/BGT407051633/







The Other Hospitals

There were several Red Cross auxiliary hospitals; the military convalescent hospital, and the Victoria Hospital which was then on Whitegate Drive.


At the outbreak of the First World War, the British Red Cross and the Order of St John of Jerusalem combined to form the Joint War Committee. They pooled their resources under the protection of the Red Cross emblem. As the Red Cross had secured buildings, equipment and staff, the organisation was able to set up temporary hospitals as soon as wounded men began to arrive from abroad. The buildings varied widely, ranging from town halls and schools, to large and small private houses, both in the country and in cities. The most suitable ones were established as auxiliary hospitals. Auxiliary hospitals were attached to central Military Hospitals, which looked after patients who remained under military control. There were over 3,000 auxiliary hospitals administered by Red Cross county directors. In many cases, women in the local neighbourhood volunteered on a part-time basis. The hospitals often needed to supplement voluntary work with paid roles, such as cooks. Local medics also volunteered, despite the extra strain that the medical profession was already under at that time. The patients at these hospitals were generally less seriously wounded than at other hospitals and they needed to convalesce. The servicemen preferred the auxiliary hospitals to military hospitals because they were not as strict, they were less crowded and the surroundings were more homely.


The wounded came home as celebrities. In June 1916, 102 wounded soldiers arrived at North Station. They had been at the Rouen base hospital and had been brought by hospital train to Blackpool from Southampton. There was a large number of motors and ambulances waiting to take the injured to various hospitals. Ten were taken to Fleetwood and the others variously to Victoria and the Adelaide and Seafield auxiliary hospitals. As the wounded left the station they were cheered on by a large crowd lining the streets.


Victoria Hospital

 Opened in 1894, Blackpool Victoria Hospital was funded by subscription and donation in the days before the NHS. Both Lytham and Fleetwood Cottage hospitals were already in existence, and it took a fatal train crash at Poulton in 1893 where the train was only a few minute from Blackpool, its departure point, to convince  the town elders, after criticism in the papers, to provide an accident hospital. During the War this relatively new hospital received many soldiers into its wards and was able to cope well with the extra pressure put upon it. Some soldiers recovered and progressed to the Convalescent hospital at Squires Gate, from where, sufficiently capable, they would be sent back to the front…and, from where, if injured again, they would return to the hospital.

The matron of the hospital, Miss Borden was also in charge of the Adelaide Street and Seafield hospitals.

Sister E Fallows was recommended for an award by the Red Cross in Aug 1918.

In 1915 Blackpool Corporation had paid the cost of keeping the wounded soldiers at the hospital, as well as the two auxiliary hospitals which had been provided by donation. Officials also gave their time for free in the construction of the Military Hospital at Squires Gate.

In August 1915 in a celebrity bowling tournament at the Belle Vue pub, featuring George Formby, (the father of the more famous son, who shared his name) funds were raised provided by a large crowd for the British wounded soldiers at Victoria Hospital.

In August 1916 22yr old Florence Killan, a nurse at the Hospital, was charged with obtaining food and lodgings by false pretences. Whether she was convicted or not, the reasons for her actions might have proven quite innocent. Or might not have done.

In December 1916 Private Howton didn’t make it out alive from the hospital, succumbing to his wounds there. He was 33yrs old. He was buried at the Blackpool cemetery, and his coffin covered with the Union Jack on top of a gun carriage. A firing party with reversed arms walked in front of the cortege and many RAMC personnel followed behind along with the RAMC band. After the gun salute at the graveside, the band played the ‘Last Post’.

In April 1919 while on leave from France, Frederick William Atkinson of Fleetwood, a Private in the Lancashire fusiliers died at Victoria Hospital from injuries received from falling off the aerial flight at the pleasure beach. There was nothing unusually dangerous about the attraction. It seems that Frederick had been larking about and was the victim of risk and cruel circumstance.

In July 1918 £100 was raised for the Hospital via a garden party on the site arranged on behalf of the Linen Guild, the organisation that provided clothing for the Hospital.

In August 1918, the annual flower week on behalf of funds for the Hospital. Several vendors were out in the streets as well as a number of Convalescent soldiers who played a piano organ to entertain. A large amount of money was raised.

Altogether 961 operations were performed and there were 1,334 in-patients admitted, and out-patients numbered 1,734. Day cases in the ‘extern’ department amounted to 13,207.

Liverpool Daily Post June 22nd 1918 Royal Red Cross awards to nurses for their valuable nursing services during the War;

Royal Red Cross 2nd Class, Miss Florence Barton, Matron, Victoria Hospital Blackpool.

Robert Harold Webster Dunderdale MRCS LRCP., medical officer Blackpool Hospital and secretary to the medical board, received an ‘Officer of the Civil Division’ award.

Sydney Ormerod Taylor, treasurer of the Blackpool War refugees Committee received an ‘Officer of the Civil Division’ award.

Mrs Amy Constance Franceya, member of Blackpool LWPC received an ‘Officer of the Civil Division ‘ award.

In April 1916 the donors and subscribers to the Hospital met. The work for the doctors and nurses for the past year had been ‘strenuous‘ under pressure from the large number of serioisly injured soldiers. 272 wounded soldiers had been treated as well as 222 other soldiers ( where there were 50 cases of pneumonia) billeted in the town, but none of the civilian population had been refused treatment. Only a single soldier died out of some very serious cases. This was on top of the large civilian population.

Nothing had been done to develop the hospital further during the war and £2,000 was needed for a new ward. The work of doctors Richardson and Butcher, both lately deceased, and who had been with the hospital since its inception, was credited. The work of the matron – who also had charge over the Adelaide and Seafield auxiliary hospitals – was appreciated with cheers.

Adelaide Hospital


(I’ve not absolutely identified the site to date.)

Marie Edwards was fined 12s (60p) for being drunk and disorderly and shouting at the wounded soldiers outside Adelaide street Hospital. She claimed she had walked from Fleetwood and had had three beers, felt sorry for them and ‘wished them God’s blessing.’

In March 1915 Private T Hanley of the E Yorks regiment was in Adelaide street hospital suffering from wounds received in the trenches. He was a well known Brighouse Rangers footballer.


Seafield Hospital, Seafield Hotel, Promenade, Blackpool, demolished and rebuilt in 1930s. Now the New Oceans Hotel South Shore.

Pic courtesy of Gerald Clark Blackpool’s Past Facebook page.

On 1st November 1918 Private Archibald Robert Curtis, of Ealing, Middlesex, RAMC 3rd Training Battalion, died at the Seafield Military Hospital.

He was one of the countless thousands who died as the result of the world wide flu pandemic which cost more lives than the Great War itself. (newspaper +ancestry)

In Aug 1918 Sister- in-Charge Miss M Chell was recommended for an award by the Red Cross.


Nursing Home Lytham

little information on this hospital at present

Pembroke Hospital,
Stella Maturina Convent Care Home, Ansdell, Lytham


Shown with its modern extension
Mr JL Lee, a retired cotton manufacturer living in Lytham, equipped the Pembroke House Soldiers’ Hospital from his own funds.




A more contemporary picture of the hospital. In 1920 when medals for war work were awarded, Mrs Sarah Josephine Lee, Joint Donor and Commandant of the Hospital, received an ‘Officer of the Civil Division’ award. VAD nurse Miss E Woodward was recommended for an award in Aug 1918. A Royal Red Cross 2nd Class was awarded to Miss Ida Mildred H Gould Pembroke Auxiliary Hospital, Lytham.


In May 1919 the effects of the ‘Pembroke House’ hospital were sold off at auction on the premises and included 200 sheets, 400 blankets, bedstead and pillows, a full size billiard table, chairs tables, weighing machines and crockery.


Starr Hills VAD Hospital Lytham

http://www.mha.org.uk/care-homes/residential-care/starr-hills/  Picture from the present day home.

Starr Hills MHA Care Home, 16 Clifton Drive Lytham St Annes Lancashire FY8 5RQ.


In Aug 1918 Miss E Keates of the hospital was recommended for an award by the Red Cross. Also VAD Miss J Marsden was recommended for an award.

Starr Hills was the residence of the late Mr William Henry Hincksman JP of Ansdell. On Saturday January 29th 1916 it was opened as a convalescent hospital for soldiers. The trustees of the estate had lent it for just that purpose and, along with generous public subscription, there were 57 beds at the opening. In the opening ceremony, presented by Lady Maden of Lytham and Bacup it was mentioned that as well as the hospital, the Lytham people had also provided three Red Cross cars for transferring wounded soldiers directly from the front to the base hospitals in France. Mrs Coulthard, daughter of the late William Hincksman presented a gilt key to Lady Maden with which the hospital was opened.

In June 1918 Miss Mary Schofield, an active worker at Starr Hills since its opening, and daughter of the county surveyor was married to Mr Kent Spensley of London, A guard of honour formed by her fellow VAD nurses and wounded soldiers lined along the Church walk of the Lytham Parish Church.

At the Wesleyan Church, Adelaide St Blackpool, VAD nurses from the Starr Hills hospital, and nurses from the Lytham Hospital, attended the wedding of Miss Annie Robinson of Lytham to Dr Charles H Wagner of Lytham. A silver tea service was presented by the VAD nurses and a cigarette casket for the Lytham Nursing Division.

In August 1919 the funeral of the popular Mr Walter Fielden, editor of the Lytham Times, took place at the Lytham Parish Church. Mr Fielden, using the pages of his paper, had raised hundreds of pounds for comforts to the soldiers. The route to the Church and the graveyard was lined with people, and shops were closed and shutters were down along the route. 150 returned soldiers and sailors were present leading the cortege, and following them the bereaved families of the fallen along with the VAD detachment of the Starr Hills Hospital headed by Dr Wagner and Miss J Rossall, commandant.

In March 1919, Starr Hills had ceased to function as an auxiliary VAD hospital and its contents were auctioned, including beds, linen, mattresses, semi-billiard table, gas cooker and general household items.


Lytham Cottage Hospital


Rebuilt and extended, and eventually demolished and rebuilt as a Hospital Trust 2009
Mr Lee of Lytham provided free of charge, the X-ray equipment for the hospital.



Chaseside Hospital



The Chaseside Hospital, St. Anne’s-on-the-Sea, 1 St George’s Square, Lytham St Annes FY8 2NY . In April 1916 an advert was placed in the Lancashire Evening Post for the services of a cook-general and a general for an immediate start at the Chaseside Red Cross, 16 St Annes Rd East.

Matron Miss L Golland was recommended for an award by the Red Cross in Aug 1918.
VAD nurses Misses A Walker and E Walmsley were also recommended for an award Aug 1918.


An extensive description of the hospital can be found here;-




Station Road Hospital, Centenary House, 38-40 Station Road, South Shore, Blackpool

At the Station Hospital Feb 1919 Private Alexander Silver RAMC aged 23 years, died suddenly, beloved adopted son of James and Jane Silver. Deeply mourned, his funeral was in Bucksburn, Aberdeen and his body would have most likely travelled there by train.


Poulton Military Hospital, the Vicarage.

Auxiliary Military Hospital, The Vicarage, Poulton-le-Fylde, now demolished.
In Aug 1918 Miss J Hodgson of the hospital was recommended to the secretary of State for war for valuable service regarding the running of the hospital. Also Sister-in-Charge Miss F Higginbottom recommended same date.


A photograph depicting two Tigers (Leicestershire Regiment). ‘At a hospital in Blackpool, July 1917.’




Fleetwood Cottage Hospital.

There’s little information on Fleetwood cottage hospital, apart from the fact that it was created in 1891 but this will be added once identified. Some soldiers were allocated there after their arrival at North Station Blackpool (contemporary newspaper reports).


This picture is from Peter Malecezk flickr
‘During the past five weeks, (to Feb 1917) 381 eggs have been sent from Stalmine to the matron of Fleetwood Cottage hospital for wounded soldiers and sailors.’
Egg collecting for the military hospitals was a national, voluntary obligation and there were many enthusiastic volunteers to fill the role.

Soldiers and sailors welfare

There were those who would champion the cause of the soldier and his family during the conflict. It is the job of a government to get away with what it can and if that job is to save money for the war effort by paying as little in pensions to as few people as possible, then that will happen. In a democratic concept of Government this is a little more difficult but it nevertheless takes a great effort and self-sacrifice from an able, courageous, persuasive, clever and unflinching quarter to make any headway in the cause of perceivable justice.

Such a man was James Hogge, as Scottish as General Haig, but a politician, not a military man. An article which appeared in the ‘Return’, the weekly journal of the Military Convalescent Hospital at Squires Gate quoted just such a question asked in Parliament and commented with;-

‘’Not those whose blood has soaked the fields of France,
Who gave their all the nation’s honour for,
But those who criticised each circumstance,
Have borne the brunt and burden of the war;
‘Tis well the public memory to jog.
The man who led, it was not Haig, but Hogge.’’

(ASW): Archibald Stodart-Walker the Scottish poet and physician working at the hospital.

There would be much sympathetic reaction from the convalescent soldiers reading that as they observed themselves and each other, physically impaired, broken, limbless, emotionally shattered and a life to get through lying ahead of them.

James Myles Hogge

Always concerned with welfare, Hogge intensified his work on issues of allowances and pensions which were aggravated by the war, devoting an enormous amount of time to seeing that widows and dependants of the killed and crippled received adequate pensions. By 1916, he was receiving 500 letters a week and as, in contrast to many MPs, he lacked private means and received only £400 as a yearly salary, and had to ask for stamped addressed envelopes. Aware that thousands of claimants were refused on spurious grounds and anxious to alleviate their lot, Hogge, with help from Walter McPhail, the distinguished Editor of Edinburgh Evening News, set up a Pensions Bureau which investigated individual cases of hardship and made recommendations for review. This led to the formation of the Naval and Military War Pensions’ League. After 1918, his work in this sphere continued and he became president of the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers. His efforts earned public appreciation as shown in a testimonial he won ‘for his unselfish and devoted endeavours on behalf of men broken in their country’s wars and of the widows and orphans of the fallen’.



In August 1918, husband and wife team, William and Julia Arnot were asked to leave the town, having been found asking for ‘alms’ on the sea front. William claimed he had fought at the engagements of the Taku forts in China during the Boxer rebellion (1900). They were from Chorley; not fined; just conditionally asked to leave. Julia pushed her husband around in a bath chair, implying he had been injured on active duty. Whether they were professional beggars or not is not proven, but their plight could be quite understandable as it took James Hogge such an effort to get acceptable pension awards for soldiers and families. Maybe they had been forced into begging.




Peter Malecezk flickr





‘The First World War in 100 Objects’ Gary Sheffield (Andre Deutsch).



The ‘Return’ – the magazine of the Kings Lancashire Military Hospital

The Lancashire Records Office Preston

Further images available online.