The Military Hospitals

The following is a list of known military hospitals used in Weymouth:

Sidney Hall Military Hospital (where ASDA supermarket now stands)

Weymouth Board Room at Weymouth Workhouse in Wyke Road

The Convent V.A.D. Hospital (Carlton Road)

Massandra VAD Hospital, Greenhill

Princess Christian Hospital, Melcombe Ave (now The Park Clinic)

St John’s VAD Hospital

The Royal Hospital, formerly in School Street

Burdon Military Hospital (now the Prince Regent Hotel)

Ryme VAD Hospital, Old Castle Road

 

Illnesses and Causes of Death among the troops

 

Of the 85 deaths that we have studied in Weymouth, surprising few were due directly to wounds on active service. Most died from respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, pneumonia or tuberculosis (TB). Others due to kidney infections (nephritis) due to the damp conditions in the trenches. Coroners inquests showed that some had taken their own lives. And one soldier Private Naseby Palmer was killed in a road accident in Chickerell.

 

The influenza (Spanish Flu) pandemic of 1918-19 claimed the lives of between 20 and 40 million people around the world, at least three times the number killed in the war. More died in a single year than were killed in the four years of the Black Death from 1347-51.

 

About a fifth of those infected developed pneumonia or septicaemia. Often this progressed to heliotrope cyanosis, a lavender hue of the skin that signalled shortage of oxygen and imminent death. Onset was devastatingly quick. Those hale and hearty at breakfast could be dead by tea-time. In 1920, a Ministry of Health report noted that unlike ordinary seasonal flu, which was worst in the elderly, weak and sick, the new illness disproportionately struck those aged 20 to 30. Young adults with the strongest immune systems were, unexpectedly, the most vulnerable. It started in May 1918 in Britain, and on the Western Front where the symptoms were initially mild - a 3 day fever.

 

Patterns of Death from 1915 to 1919

 

Only one soldier died at the camp in 1915: Pte. Edward P M GUTHRIE on 16 Nov 1915

aged 21. He was a stretcher bearer in the Aust. Army Medical Corp. 1st Field

Ambulance, and among the first to land at Gallipoli where his job in climbing steep ravines from the beach head to retrieve the injured, often under constant fire from the Turks, would have extremely strenuous and dangerous. He developed Jaundice and was eventually invalided back to Weymouth suffering from extreme debility, dying of acute appendicitis. He was the son of Frederick Bickell and Ada Guthrie of Sydney where his father was a State Senator and prominent scientist in the Board of Agriculture.

 

In 1916 fourteen soldiers died, the numbers rising to a peak of 36 in 1917, then decreasing to 22 in 1918 and 21 in 1919, with the last Australian, Pte Reuben T H DAVIES dying on the 8th October 1919, followed by a New Zealander, Pte COOTES on the 29th October nearly a year after Armistice Day.

PrincessChristianHosp_web

I had a little bird

Its name was Enza,

I opened the window

And in-flu-enza.

Childrens skipping rhyme 1918

Sidney Hall2web

Patients, nurses and visitors inside the Sidney Hall Military Hospital. Date unknown, but the hall is decorated with flags for a special occasion, perhaps the Armistice. (photo kindly supplied by David Lane)

It is noteable that in in each of the years from 1916 to 1918 a large number of deaths occurred over the Christmas and New Year period, perhaps reflecting conditions in the huts or a reduction in the amount of nursing care over that period.

Burdon Mil Hosp1919

The Burdon Military Hospital in 1919, formerly The Burdon Hotel, and now the Regent Hotel on Weymouth Esplanade. (Photo: courtesy of Gerald Clarke. His uncle Fred Kelly was an Anzac patient.)