This November Adam Walsh, our Collections Engagement Officer, will be telling the stories of some of our places and their links to the First World War as part of the annual armistice commemoration, In this blog, Adam explains how some of our places were used as hospitals and highlights the work of the VAD.
As war broke across Europe many owners of large houses offered their homes for use in the war effort. Among these were Clandon and Hatchlands Park.
Clandon Park was offered by the Onslows for use at the outbreak of war. The 1st October 1914 would see it ready for use as an auxiliary hospital for other ranks. The Hospital was fitted out with 100 beds; this number would later be increased by another 14 beds in the entrance hall and 14 in smaller rooms.
Among its first patients were 100 Belgians evacuated after their country was overrun by the Germans; an Englishman and a lone French Marine. One patient died the day after admission and two would die three days later but the rest recovered. It would not be until March 1915 that the first large group of British patients would arrive.
Unusually for an Auxiliary Hospital, Clandon was used as a functional hospital with an operating theatre. Most Auxiliary Hospitals were used for coping with those with lesser injuries. The operating theatre at Clandon was located in Lord Onslow’s dressing room, due to its access to running water. In 1916, 251 operations were performed in the hospital.
Clandon and Hatchlands, as so many other hospitals throughout the country, were staffed by Nurses of the Voluntary Aid Detachments. In many cases these were local women who had volunteered; they were paid expenses but did not normally receive a salary for their work. By 1917 the senior members of the VAD units at Clandon had been promoted to Staff Nurses. Lady Onslow, who was commandant of both this and another two hospitals from December 1914, noted that the uniform of the VAD was scorned at the beginning of the war, but with time this attitude changed.
Next week I will continue by looking at some of the other historic houses which were used as Hospitals during the Great War.
If you want to find out more about Clandon and it use as a Voluntary Hospital and see some of the objects personally; Clandon will be hosting an exhibition “When War Came to Clandon” from 24th July – 25th August 2011.