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.

Image of Clandon Park During the Great War

A House at War, Outside Clandon Park during the Great War.


The Entrance Hall as a hospital Ward at Clandon Park

The entrance hall at Clandon Park being put to use as Hospital Ward. The Hospital would eventually have 128 beds in use.

 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. 

A signed first page from an book of autographs of patients and staff of the Hospital at Clandon Park

October 12th 1914, the first patients who arrived at the hospital were Belgians as can be seen by the regiments they belonged to like the 13e de Ligne or 13th Line Regiment.

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.

The Burial of a Belgian soldier at Clandon Park Hospital, October 1914.

"The Burial of Belgain soldiers who died at Clandon Hospital, October 1914" Three of the first patients at Clandon would die, the rest would recover.

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.

A plaque marking the use as Clandon Park as a Hospital with operating theatre

Clandon Park unusally for a V.A.D Hospital had an operating theatre.


Three nursing sisters at Clandon Park

By 1917 the senior members of the V.A.D had been promoted to Nursing Sisters.


Lady Onslow in her V.A.D Comandants Uniform

Lady Onslow commented that the uniform of the V.A.D was much scorned at the outbreak of war, but in time this changed.

 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.

A certificate for a V.A.D Nurse from St. John's Jerusalem, Kent

A V.A.D certificate of Miss Charlotte Bell from St.John's Jerusalem, Kent.

A Silver Salt

Centre; A Silver Salt recieved by Lady Onslow on the discharge of the last patient to Woolwich, to commemorate her role and the use of Clandon.

A Certificate of Thanks from Army Council for use of Hatchlands as a Hospital

Hatchlands Park too was also used a hospital during the Great War. Voluntary Hospitals in Surrey would treat over 60,000 individuals in 1918 alone.

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.