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Sussex 38 and Princes Patricia’s Canadian Red Cross Hospital, Cooden


Flakdodger
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We at Bexhill Museum are preparing our Great War centenary exhibition. We have the heritage of Cooden Camp and the Southdown Battalions, Lowther’s Lambs.

We have been unable to ascertain the geographical site of the Camp. We have thought that on the edge of the Camp was Sussex 38 VAD Hospital. Previously assumed to be separate to the camp, newspaper articles indicate that the hospital was part of the camp.

So far so good…our confusion goes into overdrive with the arrival at the beginning of 1918 of Princes Patricia’s Canadian Red Cross Hospital, the camp transiting from being an RGA Depot to a military hospital.

If the VAD hospital was sited within the camp we are curious as to how the two organisations co-operated. The PP war diary makes no reference to the VAD establishment [save that some VAD nurses were employed] and the local newspapers regularly feature Sussex 38 with no mention of PPCRCH.

Two questions follow on:

Would Canadian forces have brought over their own nurses?

Is there any knowledge of the how and why of casualties being assigned to a particular VAD Hospital.

Thank you for reading this and any guidance will be gratefully received.

Dave

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Hello Dave

My answer to this would usually be to check with local archives, but of course, you're it!

Trying to add to the various points in no particular order:

I don't think that there's much, if any likelihood of there being a connection between the VAD Hospital and the PPC Red Cross Hospital. Looking at information I've got here, it seems that the PPC hospital was formerly at Ramsgate - my list of Oct. 1917 still has it there, and it provided 700 beds for Canadians at that time, so a large unit, almost certainly hutted and/or tented. Moving it to Cooden must have taken up a lot of space. Hospitals were divided into two sorts, central and auxiliary, and PP's was a central hospital so it admitted men direct from disembarkation, was under military control, and broadly speaking looked after its own needs.

'Sussex 38' refers to the number of a VAD detachment, but says nothing much about where they carried on their work. The only VAD hospital in the area you're looking at was known as Cooden VAD Hospital, provided 84 beds for other ranks, and was situated in Clavering Walk, Cooden. My records suggest (but only by omission) that this was a large private house or hotel - 84 beds was quite large by auxiliary standards. I see that Clavering Walk today is rather a desirable area. And although I don't know the area, I can see from a map that it's right on the edge of open land - so was this the land that the PP Hospital ended up on?

VAD hospitals, as auxiliary units, were under the direction of a 'central' hospital, and in this case Cooden VAD was under Eastbourne Military Hospital, from where it would have received its patients once they had been initially assessed and treated. It had been in that position for some time, certainly before the PP Hospital came to town, and it's affiliation to Eastbourne MH also suggests a lack of connection between the two.

Cooden VAD would have been staffed by nurses appointed by the British Red Cross and Order of St. John. I have no knowledge of the staffing of PP's, but the vast majority (or all?) of Canadian Hospitals were staffed by Canadian doctors and nurses with only the ancillary staff - cleaners, kitchen staff etc. - being engaged locally. I believe that the Canadians much preferred to care for their own men and to keep the staffing within the 'family.'

So while I very much doubt that there was any connection at all between the two in relation to administration or staffing, it does seem as though Cooden VAD Hospital might just have been, by chance, right on the edge of the camp, if that open area was where the camp was situated.

Or I might be completely wrong of course :whistle:

Sue

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Sue,


what a full response, I'll get our research team's nursing specialist to have a look. There has been a certain amount of bread roll throwing on this subject and it is useful to learn how patients were distributed to local VAD establishments and also the Canadian preference to utilise their own services. Maybe the VADs noted in the war diaries refer to domestics.



As I said in the opening post, we are uncertain as to the geographical extent of the Camp, but I hope the attached map [fingers crossed] assists. The VAD Hospital was at the premises of the Club House in the bottom left hand corner of the map. The Camp was, at least, in plots 1201 and 1195 to the north and probably abutted Cooden Sea Road to the east. As for the golf course to the bottom of the map, this appears to have continued as a golf course throughout the duration of hostilities.


You are correct that Clavering Walk is a desirable place to be.



We feel confident [from the local newspapers] that the VAD hospital was involved in the care of illness of the various Army units stationed at the Camp, prior to the PP Hospital.



Thankfully, we are more confident about our other VAD hospital, Sussex 24's in Cantelupe Road, Bexhill. The buildings are still there and it is a regular waypoint on our guided walks.Let me know if you would like a copy of the walk notes.


Thank you for your time and trouble.


Dave



Sorry trouble uploading map. I will try later



OK, after a bit of faffing about I have used tinypic. The image can be viewed at: http://oi43.tinypic.com/2qsv591.jpg


Edited by Flakdodger
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Thanks Dave, the map is very helpful. There were certainly plenty of Canadian VADs in the UK working in the Canadian hospitals, so I'm sure there would have been some in such a big Canadian unit. Some did nursing duties, but other non-nursing such as clerks and secretaries and would have come under the authority of the Canadian Red Cross. They were used far more in the UK than in France where they didn't do nursing duties at all - Canadian hospitals there had trained nursing staff only.

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Dave,

I assume that the map is from around 1930.

Have you now ascertained that Sussex 38 VAD Hospital was definitely at the Tennis and Croquet Clubhouse? If it did cater for 84 beds, then I would think that extensive use was made of the grounds.

What happened to "Caledonia" (Portsdown Lodge School) during the war years? Did it remain open? In 1917 it appears they wanted to extend it.

From ESRO Catalogue: "Addition to 'Caledonia' Cooden Beach [Portsdown Lodge School] / Misses Wynne & Barker / Misses Wynne & Barker DR/A/1/24/2558 22 Jan 1917"

Presumably the rectangular feature in 1187 is the Canadian swimming pool I found mentioned in an article about Cooden Close, which would suggest that the the Camp extended up to Cooden Sea Road. From here.

Phil

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Hello Phil,

A date of around 1930 looks to be about right for the map. I regret the image has not included the whole of the map, thus reveling a date.

We have several newspaper mentions of Sussex 38 VAD Hospital being in the Tennis clubhouse. Notwithstanding the maxim that one should not believe everything one reads in newspapers.

As regards "Caledonia" (Portsdown Lodge School) please bear with me and I will get to you. I will contact our schools expert and also have a look at the Bexhill Chronicle and Bexhill Observer for the first half of 1917. We photographed the pages and then read and indexed them for Great war related items. Caledonia did feature in our harvest on that score. As I say, please bear with me on that item.

Well done with spotting the swimming pool in 1187. The web author, Dr Luke Flanagan is one of our circle and his info on the subject came from Peter Cole - another one of our circle. The lack of knowledge of the geographical extent of the camp is frustrating as we are looking again at our 2008 walk notes, preparatory to doing a guided walk in May 2014.

Dave

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I've just spent a pleasant side-tracked evening going through the Hospital war diary!

For Sue's benefit, it officially opened at Cooden Camp, following the move from Ramsgate on 15th January 1918, simultaneously absorbing Hillingdon House Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Uxbridge. The latter, however, seems to have only retained a strength of 2 Officers and 1 OR. It was to be an establishment of 2250 beds, with a strength of 350, (17 Officers, 2 WO's and 331 OR's). The first patients (131 No.) arrived on 27th March 1918 from No. 4 Canadian General Hospital, Basingstoke. After a slow start, it did hit the 2000 mark in the latter part of 1918, mainly due to taking in patients from other Canadian Convalescent Hospitals that were closing down.

On 10th March 1918, Mrs Bramley, Joint Women's VAD reported there to act as Unit Superintendent. On the same day, 15 VADs reported as cooks and waitresses. Mrs Bramley is next noted on 27th March as proceeding to London on duty to Devonshire House.

Dave,

As far as I can see, the Hospital was entirely housed in huts. There does not seem to be a single permanent building.

Looking through some of the HQ diaries, other units at Bexhill, coming under the Hastings Command were the Canadian Training School, which moved from Crowborough in April 1917 and the Trench Warfare Training School, which moved from Crowborough the following month. The former has a war diary, but it is not online.

As an aside, I have a copy of a photo/PC entitled "Demobilised Mens Day, Bexhill On Sea, September 10th(?) 1919" taken at the Colonnade. Did it originate from the Archives by any chance?

Phil

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Thanks Phil,

That does show that the VAD staff there were General Service branch, and not nursing VADs, so there was either a Canadian female nursing staff there, or possibly no female nurses and only male orderlies as it seems more convalescent camp than hospital.

Sue

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Hello Sue and Phil,

thank you for your continuing interest.

Memory is a horrid thing for those passing from the first flush of youth. Your trawl, Phil, of the PP war diary caught the detail that the VADs used at the PP Hospital were cooks and waitresses. This ought to have lodged in my memory from my own perusal [not that long ago]

Apart from the swimming pool there is no - how can we say - archaeological evidence of buildings being erected in the area. Our view has always been that the PP Hospital was hutted.

Sue, I am aware of a photo marked PPC Red Cross Hospital that shows a distant view of females, near huts, in what I take to be nursing uniform. Might those domestics referred to above have been dressed like nurses?

Phil, I'm sure I know the Demobilised Men's Day photo at the Colonnade to which you refer. We have no vast collections of original photos, rather more a gathering of commercially available postcards issued over the years. I'm spending time at the museum today [my museum work usually being done at home] and I will ask our curator if he knows the origin of our copy. Oh to have been the recipients of the archive of a local commercial photographer!

By the way, our most prolific local photographer, Herbert Vieler did his bit in The Great War, serving with The Photographic Section of the RFC. Round peg - round hole, eh?

Dave

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Yes Dave, it depended on what job they were doing. Some of the GS VADs wore overalls - in fact I think that all of them were issued with overalls, which were rather like long, badly cut housemaid dresses with a belt. But I have photos here of GS waitresses wearing uniform which looks the same as the nurses' uniforms, so it certainly happened. I have a feeling that if they were working on wards as orderlies (which is probably not the case here) they would be dressed differently (overalls) so that there was no confusion between the two grades.

Sue

Of course there may well have been Canadian VADs there as well who looked similar

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All I can add is that they're VADs of some sort, but could be British or Canadian - there aren't a lot of differences when looking at black and white photos, but the Canadians did have rather larger soft collars on their uniforms - 'Peter Pan' style collars, so that could fit with this photo. But they could be British waitresses.

Sue

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