During the First World War, the Red Cross was divided into County branches, with volunteer groups called Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD). Amongst other activities, these groups organised and managed local auxiliary hospitals where they cared for wounded soldiers. These hospitals were run by a Commandant (who was in charge of the hospital, except for medical and nursing services), a Quartermaster (who was responsible for the provision store), a Matron (who directed the nursing staff), and members of the local VAD who were trained in first aid and home nursing. Local doctors also worked with the hospitals as Medical Officers. These hospitals were often set up in town halls, schools, and private houses.
Between 1914 and 1919, the Sherborne Division was one of the most important of the twelve Red Cross Divisions of Dorset. It included the service wards of the Yeatman Civil Hospital in Sherborne and two VA hospitals in Somerset (The Baptist School at South Street, Yeovil, and The Monastery in Wincanton). In December 1915, the group consisted of seven Class ‘A’ hospitals and two Class ‘B’ hospitals, with a total number of 245 beds. By 1916, the division had 368 beds and by 1918 it had 500 beds. The Sherborne Division was worked as a single hospital under the management of Assistant C.D. for the Division, Mr Benjamin Kington Finnimore MBE of ‘Berwick’ in The Avenue, Sherborne.
The Vice-Presidents of the Sherborne Division during these years were Mrs Ada Constance Hamilton Fletcher of Leweston Manor, Sherborne, and Mrs Gwendoline Margery Wingfield Digby of Sherborne Castle. The Sherborne Women’s Detachments were run by Commandants Mrs Frances Mary Holford Hardman OBE of The Lattice House, Sherborne, and Mrs Frances McAdam OBE of Greenhill House, Sherborne (now The Green, Hospital Lane). The Sherborne Men’s Detachment was run by Commandant Frederick Isaac Trevett of Elmdene, Sherborne (now Wallace House, South Street): by the end of the war they had unloaded 5,609 men, holding the recording for de-training convoys.
Auxiliary Hospitals in the Sherborne Division:
Chetnole Hospital (Dorset 64 VAD)
Chetnole Hospital was run by Commandant Mrs Mildred Alexander ARRC of The Grange, Chetnole. The Medical Officers were Dr Stanley Stephens of Yetminster and Dr John Flasby Lawrence Whittingdale of Grosvenor Lodge, Sherborne (now Westcott House), who performed all necessary operations. Between 1914 and 1918, 573 patients were treated at the hospital, with only one death. The hospital was active from 31 October 1914 to March 1915 at Hill House, Yetminster, and from 29 March 1915 to 12 December 1918 at The Grange, Chetnole.
Compton House Red Cross Hospital.
Compton House Hospital was run by Commandant Mrs Caroline Goodden MBE of Compton House. The Medical Officers were Dr Norman Flowers of Yeovil, and Dr Harold Robert Unwin of Penn Hill in Yeovil. The hospital was active from 30 March 1915 to 18 January 1919. Between 1915 and 1918, the hospital treated 448 convalescent patients, none of whom died.
Holnest Hospital (Dorset 94 VAD)
Holnest Hospital was run by Commandant Lady Lilian Digby MBE ARRC of Lewcombe Manor, Dorchester. The Medical Officers were Dr Alfred Gurth Whitaker of Evershot, Dr Ernest Dalton of Cerne Abbas, Dr Charles Royd Jones of Peatling House in Leicester, Dr Norman Haig of Penn Hill in Yeovil, and the Honorary Surgeons were Major William B. Cosens of The Gables in Dorchester, Mr William Unwin of Hendford Hill in Yeovil, and Mr Norman Flower of Penn Hill in Yeovil. The hospital was active from 24 March 1915 to November 1915 at Chantmarle Manor, Cattistock, and from November 1915 to 20 January 1919 at Holnest House. Between 1914 and 1918, 1134 patients were treated at the hospital, with one only death.
Leweston Hospital, Sherborne (Dorset 8 VAD)
Leweston Hospital was run by Commandant Mrs Ada Constance Hamilton Fletcher of Leweston Manor. The Medical Officer was Dr M. Carlton. The hospital was amongst the first in Dorset to receive wounded soldiers from the Front in 1914. The hospital was active from 14 September 1914 to 1 April 1915. It closed following the death of the Commandant’s son, Gareth Hamilton Fletcher, 2nd Lt. Grenadier Guards
The Castle Hospital, Sherborne (Dorset 2 VAD)
The Castle Hospital was run by Commandant Mrs Frances Mary Holford Hardman OBE of The Lattice House, Sherborne. The Honorary Medical Officer was John Flasby Lawrence Whittingdale of Grosvenor Lodge, Sherborne (now Westcott House). The hospital was active from 31 October 1914 to November 1916 at Sherborne New Castle, and from November 1916 to 8 March 1919 at The Cedars, Long Street, Sherborne. It treated sick and wounded soldiers direct from the Front, and Dorset Yeomanry while billeted in Sherborne. Of the 898 patients treated between 1914 and 1919, only two died.
Greenhill Hospital, Sherborne (Dorset 70 VAD)
Greenhill Hospital was run by Commandant Mrs Frances Elizabeth McAdam OBE of Greenhill House (now The Green). The Medical Officer was Dr Norman Wilson. The hospital was active from 31 October 1914 to January 1915 at Sherborne School Sanatorium in Acreman Street, and from January 1915 to 10 December 1918 at Greenhill Court on Greenhill. In May 1916, additional open-air treatment revolving huts were erected in the garden of Greenhill House (now The Green, Hospital Lane). Between 1914 and 1918, 904 patients were treated at the hospital, with only five deaths.
Trent Hospital was active from 24 March 1915 to 17 August 1917 at Flamberts, Trent. It took convalescent cases from the Sherborne Group. In March 1917, it was raised to a Class ‘A’ Hospital and received patients direct from Cosham Military Hospital, Portsmouth.
In addition, the Yeatman Civil Hospital Service Wards took Class ‘A’ military patients. The hospital was run by the hospital Matron, Sister Kearwell. The Medical Officers were John Flasby Lawrence Whittingdale of Grosvenor Lodge, Sherborne (now Westcott House), Thomas McCarthy, N. Wilson (Honorary Anaesthetist), and Frederick Vosper (Honorary Dental Surgeon) of St Audries, South Street, Sherborne. Military patients were treated at the hospital from 31 October 1914 to April 1919. Between 1914 and 1918, 900 Class ‘A’ military patients were treated at the hospital, only seven of whom died.
Of the three hospitals in Sherborne, Greenhill VA Hospital physically had the closest associations with Sherborne School. The hospital’s Commandant was Mrs Frances Elizabeth McAdam (1847-1929) of Greenhill House (now The Green, Hospital Lane). Frances was the daughter of John Bligh Monck of Coley Park, Reading, Berkshire. In 1871, she had married James John Loudon McAdam (1841- 1910), a Major in the 7th Dragoon Guards, and in 1874 their daughter Emilia Jane was born. In 1897, Emilia had married Walter Adolph McCreery of Compton Castle, and during the First World War she worked as a VAD with her mother at Greenhill VA Hospital, undertaking the role of Quartermaster, which put her in charge of the medical stores and sterilising the dressings.
Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, Mrs McAdam had obtained permission from the School Governors and Headmaster of Sherborne School to use the School Sanatorium in Acreman Street as a Red Cross Hospital. Mrs McAdam spent between £100 and £200 equipping the hospital and, on 31 October 1914, it was opened with 22 beds in two large wards and an operating theatre in a small ward. The first patients to arrive were soldiers wounded during the retreat from Mons. All the military patients treated at the School Sanatorium survived under the expert care of Nurse Ogle, Dr Norman Wilson and 20 VAD staff.
Between 31 October and the end of December 1914, 35 military patients were treated at the School Sanatorium, but by November 1914 the Headmaster realised that the School could not give up the Sanatorium indefinitely and, after a brief period when the School used Colonel Bullen’s house on Greenhill (Greenhill Court) as their Sanatorium, in January 1915 Mrs McAdam transferred her auxiliary hospital from the School Sanatorium to Greenhill Court. The Greenhill VA Hospital remained open at this location until 10 December 1918, having by then treated 904 patients.
Mrs McAdam admitted that at first she was against the move to Greenhill Court, but that the house proved cheerful and full of sunshine and they were able to increase the number of available beds to 24. However, as the hospital took only cot cases, the staircase caused difficulties for the orderlies (Cecil Cooper of South Street, Reginald Rickard of Cheap Street, William Cowling of the Gas Works, and Mr Rugg) when moving the patients. In 1915, a large number of para-typhoid parents arrived from Gallipoli, one of whom did not survive. Excellent meals were provided for the patients by Miss Emily Marguerite Stubbs (of Stonefield House, Stone, Staffordshire, and afterwards of Dunholme, Sherborne) who worked as a voluntary cook from May 1916 to January 1918, and by Mrs Emily Clark (of Up Marden, Chichester, Sussex), who was a paid cook from January 1918 until December 1918.
In May 1916, four revolving huts for ‘open-air treatment’ were erected in Mrs McAdam’s garden across the road from the Greenhill Hospital at Greenhill House (now The Green, Hospital Lane). The number of revolving huts was soon increased to eight, connected around the edge of the garden by brick paths. In the centre of the garden were two large marquees and a recreation hut, making it one of the most advanced outdoor hospitals in Dorset. It is believed that Greenhill was the first hospital in Dorset to try this treatment, which was found to be particularly beneficial for patients suffering from septic wounds or gas poisoning. Although the outdoor treatment proved very beneficial to the patients, it was hard work for the nurses who had to attend to the patients in all weathers. In the autumn of 1916, Mrs McAdam’s stockman, William James Wakeley, appealed for exemption from conscription on the grounds that he had to look after two cows, a sow, nine pigs, 300 chicken and a pony. The products from which supplied food to the Greenhill Red Cross Hospital. His appeal was dismissed.
The workload on the Medical Officer, Dr Norman Wilson, was also immense. Greenhill VA Hospital specialised in treating acute surgical cases from overseas and, during the time that the Greenhill VA Hospital was open, Dr Wilson performed over 400 operations and also visited his patients at least once a day. It is hardly surprising that Dr Wilson’s health eventually broke down and, as a result, Mrs McAdam closed Greenhill VA Hospital on 10 December 1918. She presented one of the huts to Sherborne’s Isolation Hospital.
Staff who served at Greenhill VA Hospital, 1914-1918:
Miss Molly Barber (The Avenue, Sherborne), Cook & Nurse, April 1917-December 1918.
Miss Lillian Beckton (Greenhill House, Sherborne). Voluntary Cook & Kitchen Maid, October 1916-January 1918.
Mrs Boden [?Mrs Madge Helen Boden, The Beeches, Sherborne, was a nurse at the Yeatman Hospital, from April 1917].
Miss Dorothea Bromhead (Greenhill House, Sherborne). Voluntary Kitchen Maid, October 1916-January 1918.
Miss Flora Cameron (Greenhill House, Sherborne). Voluntary Nursing Member, March 1917-March 1918.
Mrs Emily Clark (Up Marden, Chichester, Sussex). Cook, January 1918-December 1918.
Mr Tom Clark (Cornhill, Sherborne). General Services, January 1915-December 1918.
Miss Violet Clayton (Bradford Abbas, Dorset). Voluntary Nursing Member, October 1914-March 1916.
Miss Alice Clixby (Greenhill House, Sherborne). Voluntary Nursing Member, October 1914-December 1918.
Mrs Daniell [?Mrs Harriet Edith Daniell of Clifton Maybank].
Mrs Lilian Everett (Dyrham, Sherborne, Dorset). Voluntary Nursing Member, October 1915-December 1918.
Miss Edith Fieldsend (Up Marden, Chichester, Sussex). Cooking and kitchen work, (?)-December 1918.
Mrs Ethel Maria Finnimore (née Jones) (married to Benjamin Kington Finnimore of Berwick, The Avenue, Sherborne). Voluntary General Services, September 1916-December 1918.
Mrs Marjorie Gallup, Blue Stripe (Redlynch House, Salisbury). Voluntary Nursing Member, July 1915-December 1918.
Mrs Elsie Hall (Greenhill House, Sherborne). General Services, July 1918-December 1918.
Mrs Constance Hare (Coneygar, Bridport). Voluntary Nursing Member, April 1916-December 1916.
Mrs Constance Alice Hare (Coneygar, Bridport). Nursing VAD, in charge of wards under Sister, March 1915-January 1917.
Mrs Evelyn Hargreaves, ARRC, Blue Stripe.
Mrs Hichens [?Mrs Rosalind De Camara Hichens].
Miss Fanny Houghton (Redcliffe House, South Nutfield). Nurse, September 1915-January 1918.
Mrs Frances McAdam OBE (Greenhill House, Sherborne), Voluntary Commandant, October 1914-December 1918.
Mrs Emilia McCreery MBE (Greenhill House, Sherborne). Voluntary Quartermaster, October 1914-December 1918.
Mrs McGregor (Distaff Cottage, The Avenue, Sherborne).
Miss Evelyn Massey (Pencarrow, The Avenue, Sherborne).
Miss Maud Massey (Pencarrow, The Avenue, Sherborne).
Miss Edith Niblett (The Mount, Charmouth). Nursing VAD.
Miss Rosa Niblett (The Mount, Charmouth).Nursing VAD.
Mrs Annie Noakes (Greenhill House, Sherborne). Charwoman, (?) 1915-December 1918.
Mr Alan Pert (Greenhill House, Sherborne). Voluntary chauffeur & General Service, September 1917-December 1918.
Miss Barbara Rawson, Blue Stripe (Brecon House, Sherborne). Voluntary Nursing Member, April 1915-December 1918.
Mrs Rawson [?Mrs Lillie Campbell Rawson, Brecon House, Sherborne].
Miss Muriel Robinson (Redlynch House, Salisbury). Voluntary Cook & Nursing Member, October 1916-December 1918.
Mrs Isabella Rugge-Price (Sherborne, Dorset). Voluntary teas & nursing, May 1917-December 1918.
Miss Cecilia Starmore (Greenhill House, Sherborne). Voluntary General Service (chiefly linen), (?) 1916-December 1918.
Miss Catharine Stay, ARRC, Blue Stripe (Greenhill House, Sherborne). Voluntary Nursing Member, October 1914-December 1918.
Miss Emily Marguerite Stubbs (Stonefield House, Stone, Staffs, afterwards Dunholme, Sherborne). Voluntary Cook, May 1916-January 1918.
Miss May Sturdy (Norburton, Burton Bradstock, Bridport). Voluntary Nursing Member, May 1915-August 1917.
Miss Muriel R. Tait, Blue Stripe (Ladies Park Club, Knightsbridge, London S.W.). [Nursing?], November 1917-July 1918.
Miss Amy Ward (South Farm, Nottington, Dorset). VAD Nursing Member, December 1917-January 1919.
Miss Marian Whiting (The Hall, West Coker, Yeovil). Voluntary Nursing Member, May 1915-December 1918.
Miss Rose Winch (Greenhill House, Sherborne). Voluntary Nursing Member, October 1914-October 1915.
Sister Ogle [?Miss Agnes Mary Ogle, Bellaire, King’s Road, Sherborne].
Sister Palmer (masseuse).
Medical Officer: Dr Norman Wilson MD, BC Cantab. (Greenhill, Sherborne).
Sources used in this article:
The Red Cross in Dorset during the War. A Report of Voluntary Aid Work carried out in Dorset, and Statement of Accounts, August 1914-June 1919. Dorset Local Studies Collection, Dorset History Centre (ref. 361.942)
British Red Cross museum and archives
Sherborne School Archives
For further information please contact the School Archivist.
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