Friday, 12 September 2014

Life at the Glenroy Military Hospital

It’s been slow work given that there are really only newspaper reports to go on, but finally a picture is emerging of what life might have been like at the Glenroy Military Hospital during its eighteen months' existence.

Detail from an image of the hospital at 'Ashleigh', courtesy Broadmeadows Historical Society. It's not a very sharp image, but you can make out a day bed on the balcony and a man standing with hands on hips while another leans on the railing.

The patients were convalescent, mostly recovering from measles. They had become ill before they had a chance to set off for overseas (Argus, 22 Nov 1915, p.10) so there were no wounded or battle-affected soldiers at the hospital. For the most part, their illnesses were not life-threatening. Most men recovered and went on to serve overseas, although there were deaths, as might be expected in those days before antibiotics and other treatments now taken for granted.

Another detail from an image of the hospital at 'Ashleigh', courtesy Broadmeadows Historical Society. Here you can make out three nurses just right of centre and several women standing on the right. 

Life was probably pretty boring for those who could do little more than lie or sit around and wait their turn to return to camp and set off overseas to join the action. Early on in the hospital’s brief life, Lance Corporal Herbert Cobb, a medical orderly, sent a letter to the editor of the Argus asking if anyone would be willing to donate a gramophone, records and songs for the use of patients and staff.  (9 Sep 1915, p.7)

I wonder what the response was like? Did they all sing along to the popular parody of 'Waltzing Matilda' after which this blog is named?
Fighting the Kaiser, fighting the Kaiser,
Who'll come a-fighting the Kaiser with me?
And we'll drink all his beer, and eat up all his sausages,
Who'll come a fighting the Kaiser with me!

Or did the sound of Australia will be therethe ‘pop song’ of its day, resound around the area surrounding 'Ashleigh' and 'Sawbridgeworth'?
Rally ‘round the banner of your country
Take the field with brothers o’er the foam
On land or sea
Where’er you be
Keep your eye on Germany
But England, home and beauty
Have no cause to fear
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
No, no, no! Australia will be there.
(‘For Auld Lang Syne! – Australia Will Be There’, by Skipper Francis)

The need to keep the men occupied while they convalesced caused a frisson of friction in September 1916, when a well-meaning citizen of South Yarra by-passed the Red Cross and sent out a call to the public:

Letter to the Editor from L.M. Staughton, St Neots, South Yarra, asking for the public to 
‘send items to the sick and convalescent soldiers in the military hospital at Glenroy. They have literally nothing to do. Any card bagatelle boards, chess men and boards would be a godsend. There is a tennis court there, but much out of repair. Would anyone have it repaired, or would some of the many kind voluntary men helpers do it in their spare time? Also racquets and balls are wanted. A punch ball would help to keep the men fit.’ (Argus, 25 Sept 1916, p.4)

The Obituaries Australia website tells us that L.M. Staughton was in fact Lizzie Staughton, widow of Samuel Staughton, MLA, and an active worker for philanthropic and patriotic causes. For some time she served on the executive of the conservative, pro-Empire Australian Women’s National League and worked hard on behalf of a number of children’s charities up until her death in 1921. 

The terse response from Adelaide Creswell, Convenor of the Red Cross Home Hospital, says it all:
 ‘All that is necessary if more things are needed, is for the doctor in charge to ask the Red Cross Secretary. As it is a measles hospital, motor drives have not been arranged.’ (Argus, 26 Sept 1916, p.4)

Lady Creswell was not amused!

Lady Adelaide Creswell from Who’s Who of the World of Women, Vol 2, 1934, found on the People Australia website.

Clearly some men were well able to undertake more strenuous exercise, as indicated by the advertisement in the Brunswick and Coburg Leader,  12 May 1916, p.3, calling for tenders for the asphalting of a tennis court at the Glenroy Military Hospital. Tenders were to go to Miss Davis, Moreland Hall, but more of Linda Davis and her fund-raising activities for the hospital in a later entry.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

More on the Glenroy Military Hospital

If ever you needed a reminder that there was a class system at work within the military (officers and the ranks), just consider the Glenroy Military Hospital set-up.
‘Ashleigh’ and ‘Sawbridgeworth’ were two Italianate mansions built side by side during the years of ‘Marvellous Melbourne’. As living quarters they were beyond anything that most soldiers would have previously experienced. Now, because they had contracted an infectious disease before they embarked for the war, they found themselves living in splendour (or perhaps just in the shell of a once-splendid home).
At the Glenroy Military Hosptial, I have been told that the officers were located in one of the houses and the ranks in the other. Unfortunately, I have not been able to discover which was which. Perhaps there is someone out there reading this blog entry who knows the answer.

The three photos that follow, provided by the Broadmeadows Historical Society, all give an indication of how infectious diseases patients were treated at the time. In one you will see tents pitched at the front of a house and canvas blinds pulled down on the first storey verandah. Presumably, some patients slept on the verandahs and certainly others slept in the tents, open-air living and sleeping arrangements being a common treatment for tuberculosis in those times.
The photos have all been labelled 'Ashleigh', so I wonder whether 'Ashleigh' was the main hospital. Perhaps someone reading this blog entry knows the answer.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Glenroy Military Hospital

The 5th Infectious Diseases Hospital (Victoria), more commonly known as the Glenroy Military Hospital, opened at Glenroy in June 1915 and closed in January 1917. I have also seen it referred to as the Glenroy Measles Hospital, and this was its principal purpose, although the hospital took in pneumonia and tuberculosis cases, the pneumonia cases usually linked to measles.
The Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter, 10 June 1915, p.4, reported that:
‘Two large mansions at Glenroy, the property of the Wiseman family, … have been taken by the Defence Department and are being rapidly transformed into hospitals for the troops. A matron is to be in charge and will have female nurses to assist her. There will be some tents erected in the grounds and it is estimated that some 150 to 200 beds will be available. Major McEwan, of the Hospital Staff, who has returned from Rabaul, has taken up his residene at Glenroy nearby so as to be in readiness.’
The mansions in question were called ‘Ashleigh’ and ‘Sawbridgeworth’. They were built as mirror images of each other as can be seen in the following photograph provided courtesy of the Broadmeadows Historical Society. The photograph also shows just how rural and remote Glenroy was during this period - ideal for an isolation hospital. For those who know modern-day Glenroy, it is hard to believe that 'Sawbridgeworth', now known as Wiseman House, and the only survivor of the two houses, is located in busy Widford Street.

This second image, again courtesy of Broadmeadows Historical Society, is of a view looking south-west from the turret on the top of 'Sawbridgeworth'. It was taken in about 1918.  The building just right of centre is the old Glenroy Hall, located in Cromwell Street.

Despite its semi-rural location, the hospital soon ran into trouble with its neighbours. The culprit? The age old and vexed problem of drainage.

The Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter, 5 August 1915, p.4, reported that the Broadmeadows Council had received a complaint from residents regarding the ‘defective drainage of a military hospital recently established at Glenroy, adding that the pollution of the Moonee Ponds Creek was imminent.’
A later issue of the paper (2 September 1915) revealed that the hospital needed a ‘more efficient and complete system of drainage, together with a better water supply, and removal of nightsoil.’ (The report had revealed that nightsoil was being buried on the grounds, hardly a practice conducive to best health practices.)
The scale of the problem for the neighbourhood was made clear in the Dairy Inspector's report in early October 1915. The hospital was now treating 40 [infectious] patients and the drainage from the site was ' finding its way into a creek to which dairy cows had access.' (The Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter, 7 Oct 1915, p.4.)  This meant that residents were in danger of becoming infected themselves when they drank milk from the cows.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Percival Kerrison Smith update

Image courtesy David Beal.

This is a studio portrait of Percival Kerrison Smith, taken in Brunswick before he left for the Front. 

339 Private Percival Kerison Smith, 29th Infantry Battalion, A Company was killed in action at Fromelles on 19-20 July 1916

As a result of my earlier entry on P.K. Smith, a relative has sent me this photo and tells me that he is waiting to be contacted by the army so that he can provide a DNA sample in the hope of identifying PK's remains. 

He writes 'My wife and I plan to visit Fromelles around next July so we are really hoping that Percival can be identified in time for the 2015 memorial at Pheasant Wood, Fromelles.' I wonder how many others will make this same pilgrimage.

You can find out more about Lambis Englezos and his involvement in the Fromelles project here and here or simply do a Google search. So far, more than 120 soldiers have been identified. You can read more about the Fromelles Project here.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Our Anzacs: A scrapbook of Brunswick during World War 1

This locally produced book was edited and compiled by local authors Laurie Cunningham and Laura Donati and was launched earlier this month at the Brunswick Town Hall.

Those at the launch enjoyed singing songs of the World War One era and were priviliged to hear newly-returned Lambis Englezos talk about his involvement in the Fromelles project.

Through the generosity of Laurie and Laura, the book is available in digital format through the Moreland City Libraries' Local History Catalogue.

Don't forget that many servicemen appeared on both the Coburg and Brunswick Honour Boards, so if you are researching someone from the area, you should check out this book, which includes a full list of the men whose names appear on the Brunswick Honour Board, which is located in the foyer of the Brunswick Town Hall.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Roy Rupert Davis of ‘Moreland Hall’

7362 Driver Roy Rupert Davis, 8th LIght Horse Regiment, enlisted on 14 June 1915 aged 20. He was from a well established Coburg family, his grandparents being William and Elizabeth Davis of ‘Nassau’.
At the time of Roy’s enlistment, his father Albert was Mayor of Coburg and he wrote his letter giving Roy permission to join up on official Town of Coburg letterhead.

Albert Thomas Davis. 
Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

Image from Roy Rupert Davis's attestation papers.
Image courtesy National Archives of Australia.

Roy’s early life was one of privilege. He lived in a grand home and attended Wesley College. Before enlistment, he had been in the Coburg Mounted Cadets for two years, under the command of Colonel Rushell. (Brunswick and Coburg Leader, Friday 4 June 1915, p.2) He was the only son of an influential citizen, but the Davis family did not take their good fortune for granted. His grandparents and his parents all contributed to the good of the local community in a number of ways.

During the war, for example, the Davis family were at the forefront of patriotic efforts in the area and opened their home, ‘Moreland Hall’, on many occasions for patriotic activities. Roy’s sister Linda was particularly adept at fund-raising, one of her main causes being the Glenroy Military Hospital, but more of that in a later post.

The following images of ‘Moreland Hall’, Jessie Street, Coburg, were taken in the mid-1920s when it was sold to the Wesleyan Central Mission as a place for the treatment of alcoholism and drug abuse. At that time it was known as The Bichloride of Gold Institute. Interestingly, today it is again used for a similar purpose. Coburg Historical Society holds more information on Moreland Hall and on the various Bichloride of Gold Institutes.

Images courtesy Coburg Historical Society

Roy Davis returned from the war in September 1919 and married Alice Robinson in 1924. By the mid twenties he was working on various family properties in the Casterton area of Victoria's Western District. By the end of the 1940s he returned to Coburg briefly and was working as a clerk, but soon moved to the southern suburbs of Mentone, then Sandringham and finally Beaumaris. He died at Dandenong in 1981 aged 85.

Monday, 4 August 2014

And then there was war ...

Outside the Argus office, 5 August 1914.
Image courtesy AWM. Image H11612.

So much has been published already about that first day of the war, 4 August 1914, that I'm not going to reinvent the wheel. 

My earliest blog post in September last year will give you a flavour of how Coburg dealt with the news.

The Empire Called blog is also another great source of information.

And the ABC website has some fantastic features that you should not miss:
A snapshot of Australia at the time of the outbreak.How Australia reacted to the outbreak of conflict.

And just as local contribution, here's an article from the Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 14 August 1914 about tourists travelling in Europe and the start of hostilities: