A book based on eighteen months of research into the military hospital which was at Beckett Park, Headingley, during the First World War, was launched on 21 March 2014 in the performance space of the New Headingley Club.
Stories from the War Hospital is the name of the book - and the play based on its contents which was performed at the launch. Both were written by Richard Wilcocks, Secretary of Headingley LitFest. He has worked as a journalist, as a teacher and educational adviser, and for the British Council. Copies of the book from firstname.lastname@example.org
Comments so far:
“Through painstaking interviews, dedicated detective work and detailed research Richard Wilcocks has performed an amazing feat of recreating the lives lived at the Second Northern General Hospital at Beckett Park in Headingley during the First World War. A superb memento for all to treasure.” (Rebecca Fraser, author of The Story of Britain: A Narrative History)
Full of rich original detail - by turns heart-breaking, fascinating and even funny. The format is useful and clear for both the historian and the general reader. It captures the sense and stories of a remarkable place that might otherwise have been lost. An excellent contribution to the Centenary commemorations. (Dr Emily Mayhew, Imperial College, London, author of Wellcome Book Prize shortlisted Wounded)
Some of the stories are simply extraordinary. To give half a dozen examples:
Private Robert Bass joined up in 1914, was wounded on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916), patched up in England, then sent back to the Front to have his upper lip and most of his teeth shot away during the Arras offensive in 1917. His mouth was slowly reconstructed over the period of a year at Beckett Park and it was there that he met the woman he was to marry, Ada Porley, who was working on uniforms in Leeds.
Dorothy Wilkinson lived in Boston Spa with her musician father and German mother. A musician herself, and an active suffragette, in 1914 she became the fiancée of Captain Pickles, an RAMC medic who was sent to work in a Casualty Clearing Station near Ypres. He was brought back to England with severe shell shock. She married him, but he died of influenza months later. Dorothy became a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) or ‘Vedette’ and joined the staff at Beckett Park. This story appeared in the Yorkshire Post (17 February 2014) in a shortened version - read it at http://bit.ly/1bcUgLZ
Nurse Margaret Newbould was working as a cook in Headingley when she decided to train as a nurse and later, a midwife. On the staff at Beckett Park, she was admired for her dedication, and in 1915 she became the assistant matron of the hospital ship Formosa which helped to evacuate the huge numbers of wounded during the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign on the Turkish coast. She later worked near the Front in France, and was awarded the Royal Red Cross Medal, First Class.
Masseuse Roslyn Rutherford from New South Wales wanted to do her bit for King and Country, so she got herself trained in Sydney in massage and electrical treatment, which today comes under the title of Physiotherapy. When she arrived in England, she joined the Almeric Paget Military Massage Corps, worked at Beckett Park, and lived in Grimthorpe Terrace. Disillusioned with the Corps, however, she joined a women-only group running a hospital near Paris..
Lieutenant Leonard Rooke was first wounded at Arras in 1916. His left forearm was hit by grenade fragments, when he was with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. After recovery, he was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps, but while under instruction in a biplane taking off from Doncaster aerodrome, the engine failed and the machine crashed. Both of his legs were badly broken in several places. Whilst a patient at Beckett Park, he met Nurse Violet Trafford-Towers and fell in love with her. They married in 1922, after Violet had worked in the British Military Hospital in Basra, Iraq.
Corporal Robert Leyden of the Northumberland Fusiliers was struck by a shrapnel bullet in 1915 at Ypres, which ended up embedded in a heart muscle. Discovered during an X-Ray at Beckett Park, it was thought to be much too risky to remove it, so he was discharged. A year later, while he was working as a linotype operator in Otley, the bullet moved, causing him pain, so he was readmitted. He agreed to an operation by the great surgeon Sir Berkeley Moynihan, which was successful. For the newspapers, it was remarkable, and a big talking point for a long time afterwards at the hospital.
The play at the launch was performed by the Vedettes - Richard Wilcocks and three students from the Performing Arts Department of Leeds Metropolitan University – Katharina Arnold, Charlotte Blackburn and Hannah Ferguson. ‘Vedettes’ was one of the nicknames for women in the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment). It also means ‘rising stars’ in modern French.