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Florence Cole as a child

Wounded soldiers and the
Edmonton Military Hospital in WW1

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One thing that sticks in my mind from my childhood is the number of ex-servicemen from the First World War begging in the streets, or playing a musical instrument for donations. All had limbs missing or loss of sight.

Peter Johnson

Military Hospitals

Edmonton Military Hospital, during World War One, front entrance

Edmonton Military Hospital, during World War One, courtesy of Enfield Local Studies Centre & Archive. Note the cross on the left hand gate.

Edmonton Military Hospital was one of several hospitals in England given over to the care of wounded soldiers during the First World War. It was a special surgical hospital for orthopaedic cases.

Plaque outside Edmonton Military Hospital

Detail of the above photo showing the plaque on the pillar to the left of the gate.

It was in Silver Street, Edmonton and is now the North Middlesex Hospital.

The Military Hospital was a great centre of interest to local people with its two large red crosses on the front gates.

My father's uncle, E. G. Cole, was very much involved in setting up the hospital for military use, for which he was awarded an MBE.

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The arrival of the wounded soldiers

Convoy of ambulances leaving a London station transporting wounded WW1 soldiers to the military hospitals. The red cross is clearly shown on the front of the nearest ambulance

Convoy of ambulances leaving a London station transporting wounded WW1 soldiers to the military hospitals.

We children were always excited when a convoy of wounded soldiers was expected. They had been brought back to England by ship, then by train to a London Station where ambulances met the convoys. My father was one of the ambulance drivers. The ambulances moved only at a slow walking pace to try to prevent unnecessary jarring, as many of the solders were extremely badly wounded. When we children saw them coming along Silver Street, we would run along beside them and cheer.

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Feeding the wounded soldiers

Convoy of ambulances leaving a London station transporting wounded WW1 soldiers to the military hospitals. The red cross is clearly shown on the front of the nearest ambulance

Convoy of ambulances leaving a London station transporting wounded WW1 soldiers to the military hospitals.

"On Monday a train load of wounded men arrived at Swindon [presumably another hospital]. Being a Bank Holiday food was a difficulty, especially bread. However Stephens the baker got to work and got his ovens going, but we had to GIVE the bread as it is illegal to SELL bread till it is twelve hours old."

from a WW1 letter in 'Charlotte's Beastly War'
by James Melik, reproduced with permission

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The wounded soldiers' hospital uniforms

Uniforms of the recovering WW1 wounded soldiers in hospital

Wounded soldiers at Edmonton Military Hospital, showing the suits they wore, described by my mother as sax blue of what looked like a type of flannel material, with bright red ties. Photo courtesy of Glenn Newson whose grandfather John Martin (known as Jack) is on the right.

When the wounded soldiers were well enough to go out, they were very noticeable in the street as they were dressed in sax blue suits made of what looked like a type of lightweight flannel material, and they wore bright red ties.

Uniforms in other military hospitals

It seems that all the country's main military hospitals had the same uniform. See for example a photo from Caenshill Military Hospital, courtesy of Lesley Ruse.

   

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The wards, nurses and social life

The next two photographs show the uniforms of the various grades of nurse, as well as the suits worn by the patients who were well enough get dressed. The first photograph is at a wedding in a nearby house and the second is in a ward.

Wounded soldiers and nurses of Edmonton Military Hospital as guests at a wedding party in a nearby house, 1918.

Wounded soldiers and nurses of Edmonton Military Hospital as guests at a wedding party in a nearby house, 1918. Photo courtesy of Bruce Robinson, whose grandfather, Edmond McKee, is in the back row, marked with a cross.

Group of wounded soldiers and nurses at Edmonton Military Hospital, 1918, small

A group of wounded soldiers and nurses at Edmonton Military Hospital, 1918, contributed anonymously

There is a larger version, from which you may be able to recognise someone in your family.

  

Ward 1 of Edmonton Military Hospital in World War One
Tuxedo tobacco tin, curved to fit comfortably into a man's breast pocket

American Tuxedo tobacco tin, curved to fit comfortably into a man's breast pocket.

Support for the wounded soldiers

Naturally everyone was very kind to the wounded soldiers. America sent tins of tobacco which were very attractive. They were about three inches long and curved to fit comfortably into a breast pocket. The name on the tin was Tuxedo and there was a picture of a man in a dinner jacket. The Americans also sent grapefruit, and my father had some, presumably a perk of the job. We had never seen them before and tried to eat them like oranges. So we didn't like them at all because they were so bitter.

When the war was over, the hospital had a Peace Tea, and, as my father was on the staff, my mother and I were invited too. There was food galore and it was the first time I had trifle with sherry in it.

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More photos of Edmonton Military Hospital

Wounded soldiers outside Edmonton Military Hospital in WW1

Another photo of the front of Edmonton Military Hospital. Note that the wounded soldiers are all wearing the uniform described above. Photo courtesy of Enfield Local Studies Centre & Archive.

The back of Edmonton Military Hospital in WW1

The back of Edmonton Military Hospital. Photo courtesy of Enfield Local Studies Centre and Archive.

Nurses home at Edmonton Military Hospital, WW1

The nurses home at Edmonton Military Hospital, contributed anonymously

Annex at Edmonton Military Hospital, WW1

The annex at Edmonton Military Hospital, contributed anonymously

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Memorabilia

Visiting card of the chaplain of Edmonton Military Hospital, C.D. Drury, dated 25 August 1915

Visiting card of the hospital chaplain, C.D. Drury, dated 25 August 1915, courtesy of Glenn Newson. His grandfather's name "Martin, J" is handwritten in the 'To' space.

Pocket prayer book, probably given out to wounded soldiers by chaplain of Edmonton Military Hospital in World War One

Rubber stamp of Edmonton Military Hospital, 1917

Rubber stamp of Edmonton Military Hospital, 1917, contributed anonymously. Clearly the hospital held the soldiers' paybooks.