• Australian Voluntary Hospital

LADY DUDLEY’S APPEAL LONDON, Aug 11 Lady Dudley’s appeal for assistance in establishing a field hospital was worded as follows:- “I appeal to the people of Australia to give financial support to this Australian Voluntary Field Hospital, which will be entirely worked by Australian born doctors and nurses. I am shortly taking this hospital to the front in person.” – Rachael Dudley. [The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Thur 13 Aug 1914 (p.10)] AUSTRALIAN VOLUNTEER HOSPITAL LEAVES FOR THE FRONT LONDON, August 27 The Australian Volunteer Hospital Corps formed by Lady Dudley leaves to-day. Colonel Eames is in command, and is assisted by Colonel G. Horne, Major Dick, Captains R. Reynell, Studdy, McDonnell, H. Harris, S. Patterson, Mark Garner, and R. Wallace; Drs Hamilton, Russell, Douglas, Shields, and Thring. Lady Dudley is superintendent. There are eighteen nurses, sixteen being Australians; eighty non-commissioned officers and men, including twenty-five medical students. The hospital has a splendid equipment. [The Mercury (Hobart), Sat 29 Aug 1914] Nurses of the AVH: ABELL, Lydia (ARRC) ANDERSON, Patience Outram ARMIT, Bessie Ritchie (ARMITT) (Scottish) BAXTER, Margaret BAXTER, May (ARRC) BAZLEY, Mabel BENALLACK, Mary Ann (RRC) BLACKMORE, Jessie Margaret BOWIE, Helen (RRC) BUCKHAM, Jean / Jane Binnie M. (MID, ARRC) BURNS, Martha CAMERON, Ann DALGLEISH, Jessie Margaret DALYELL, Elizabeth (Bess) (ARRC) DOW, Joanna Maria (Joan) DOW, Mabel Lucy (MID) DOWLING, Ruth Marion EVANS, Alice Adelaide Mary FADDY, Gertrude Helena (ARRC) FALLON, Annie FITZSIMONS, Margaret Lucy FORREST, Eliza Annetta (Netta) (RRC) GABRIEL, Ada Baker (MID, ARRC) GREAVES, Ida Mary (MID, RRC) - MATRON GREAVES, Susan Ethel INGLIS, Florence Lilian JENKINS, Mary Vaughan LANE, Una LOWE, Ellen MacANDREW, Anne Ellis (ARRC) MacKENZIE, Jessie Agnes MacKENZIE, Myra MASTERS, Rosa M S McGENNAN, Beatrice Annie McGREGOR, Elizabeth (DOS) McLAREN, Lily MILBURN, Mary Wilhelmina MILES, May MOSS, Fanny Millicent MOXHAM, Fanny Jane MUNDELL, Elizabeth NICHOLSON, Mary Agnes OVEREND, Elvina Mary (Elvie) RAWSON, MARY REAY, Anne Victoria (Nan) (ARRC) REID, Florence Mary ROBERTSON, Minnie Mabel Alexandra ROBSON, Cecil Hope SAW, Lily Hilda SHOOBRIDGE, Charlotte Mabel SUTTOR, Lillian Charlotte [Sutton] TOYER, Ellen Eliza TREBILCOCK, Edith Amy TREBLE, Mary A WALTER, Ella Clarice WARD, Constance K (Mrs) WHITELEY, Irvin Bartley (Married name – Glyde) WYLLIE, Agnes A (MID, ARRC) How the Australian Volunteer Hospital came to be Organised, and the Good Work it is Doing at the Front LONDON, December 28 [By Katharine Susannah Pritchard, 1914] The Winter quarters of the Australian voluntary hospital are in a great, rambling, muddily-white French hotel. When first you see it, you want to draw it as it stands against the sea, under a clear, shining sky. You feel you want to use a rough chalk for its vermilion roof, and for its shutters and doors that are vivid, apple-green. Beyond it stretch the dunes, vague and formless, with their coarse, wind-threshed, bleached grasses, and behind it spreads a scattered toadstool growth of white-walled, red-roofed cottages. Gris Nez forms a rampart on the north, and .there is a deserted, red-roofed village along the coast. The Picardy landscape the hospital stands in is so tranquil in a peaceful, pastoral way, that it is almost impossible to believe, that only a few miles away all the damnable business of war is going on. IT WAS LADY DUDLEY'S IDEA. But I am beginning my petite histoire Chinese fashion, at the wrong end, with the hospital as it stands, an accomplished fact, and not, probably as it should begin with the day in London before war was declared and yet seemed imminent, when Lady Dudley conceived the brilliant idea of an Australian field hospital. The grass did not grow under her feet from that moment. She got promises of support from Australians in London. Mr. Douglas Shields undertook the preliminary arrangements. An Australian woman, whose name at -first was "wrapt in mystery," set the financial ball' rolling with a gift of £2000. (It is now murmured that perhaps Mrs. Harold Fink was the woman in the case.) Sir Robert Lucas Tooth gave it avoirduposity with his endowment of £10,000, and numerous other Australians made weight with cheques for three-figured amounts and promises of £100 a month while the war lasts. The hospital was offered to the War Office the day war was declared, and accepted the same evening. Lieut-Col. W. L'Estrange Eames, C.B., V.D., was appointed commanding officer, Mr. Douglas Shields surgeon in charge, and the medical and surgical staff, with Lieut.-Col. Horne at its head, was selected. Then the general and executive committees were formed. Nobody seems to know very much of-either, except that Sir Robert Lucas Tooth was the first president of the executive, and Mrs. Arthur Popplewell its hon. secretary. The hospital has likewise the pomp and panopy of a council, on which the wives of many State Governors and Governors-General serve. The hospital's adventures began when it went into camp at Ranelagh, and cooled its collective heels at Southampton waiting permission to cross the Channel in those perilous days of August. But they only began in earnest when it had crossed the Channel – half of it in Lord Dunraven’s yacht, the Greta, which had been given a commission in the Royal Naval Reserve, for the purpose, and the other half in a Government transport. Havre was its first port of call; but as Havre was just about to be evacuated as a base for wounded, the hospital was not set up there, although some of the sisters and surgeons did a relief shift in the Government Hospital there. The A.V.H.'s first quarters were at St. Nazaire, where it opened in a building that had been a private hospital; but it had a certain number of wards under canvas, and an annex in some national schools transformed for the purposes. It was here that Australian doctors and sisters encountered for the first time the full horror of the war – men coming from the battlefields exhausted by long hours of train travelling, delirious, and with septic wounds. They were working under field hospital conditions, and shudder now when they talk of them. A BRILLIANT BEGINNING. Over 700 is usually the figure given, but probably upwards of 1000 British wounded were treated at St. Nazaire, and when the British hospital base was removed to Boulogne the A.V.H. moved, too. After a wonderful journey through the Autumn-enchanted lands of Brittany, through golden woods, past Old-World castles and medieval villages, the stores, staff, and furniture, in a caravan train, like a travelling circus, arrived at the Grand Hotel Cosmopolite du Golf, about two miles from Wimereux. The staff had just descended, and the Grand Hotel, etc., was in all the glory of its Summer fixings and furbishings, when word came that the hospital must be ready to receive a convoy of wounded immediately. Not a curtain down, not a dab of whitewash anywhere. The sisters had not time to exclaim, nor the surgeons to protest. On the instant, men and women were working frantically, to transform the Grand Hotel du- Golf into a military hospital. But the ambulances were arriving before the beds were made. They kept on arriving – a continuous, slow stream of khaki-covered cars, with a red cross blazed across them. They came over the brow of the hill, and filed past the hospital from 10 in the morning until after four in the afternoon. The corridors were lined with stretchers. But before nightfall the A.V.H. had proved its mettle. It had accommodated 145 wounded men at a moment's notice. Famous red-tapeists exclaimed at what had been done. But the A.V.H. took its surprise party at Wimereux without faltering, and never was house-warming more strenuous. Every man and woman fought for the lives entrusted to them, fought as valiantly and indefatigably as the men had been fighting on the battlefields. The sisters slaved to get the wards into the order and hygienic conditions their souls love. They were not off duty for ten days. The surgeons were operating from 6 in the morning until midnight; the X-ray specialist, Captain Herschel Harris it is said, for four days and nights was working almost continuously. The orderlies were going night and day; some of them had only four hours' sleep a day, for days together. A QUICKLY-GAINED REPUTATION. A storm raged during that first week, too. The wind blew as if it would carry the whole building before it. It bellowed and battered at the windows. The sea at high tide sent showers of spray against the window panes. And it was bitterly cold. The windows could not be opened, and the staff worked on in that foetid atmosphere of septic wounds, worked and weathered the storm, weathered its stress of work, magnificently. When I saw the hospital it was moving on oiled wheels. It was regarded as one of the best equipped and maintained of the hospitals at the British base; indeed, other hospitals were sending patients to it for X-ray examination, and some of them were remaining for operations. The staff had got its second wind. The sisters were able to talk about the "rush," and the doctors to say how splendidly the girls had worked through it all. Nearly all the "rush"' patients had gone on to convalescent homes in England. There were only about 60 men in the hospital. It was a slack time, everybody said, though another rush was expected any day. None could be quite as bad as the first, though, it was agreed, because now the hospital is ready for it. If ever a hospital deserved a "D.S.O." it is quite certain the A.V.H. did for its first weeks' work at Wimereux. The hospital's capacity is for from 175 to 200 beds; but there is a rumor just .now that the War Office has asked it to take 200 more beds, for which the Government will put up huts. The wards at present are on three floors, the two biggest wards and the operating theatre on the ground floor, and the kitchen in the basement. The biggest ward has 30 beds, and the wards on the second and top floors, composed of smaller rooms, each contain two, three or four beds. The beds have all iron frames, with head and foot pieces newly painted black, and with scarlet blankets and red and white counterpanes, ranged symmetrically across the rooms, redeem them from the ordinary dreary cheerlessness of hospital wards. [The Globe and Sunday Times War Pictorial (Sydney, NSW), Sat 6 Mar 1915 (p.12)] Further Reading: The History of the Australian Voluntary Hospital - World War One (Lieut Col Neil C. Smith, AM; 2006) Heather 'Frev' Ford