Thursday, 25 September 2014

Another nurse at Glenroy Military Hospital - Alice Prichard

Just when I thought I'd found as much material as I was likely to find, I decided to broaden my TROVE search and use the search term 'Glenroy Hospital' and hey presto a few more references were staring me in the face! Not only that, but since the last time I looked, more newspapers have come online, so I found more material that way, too.

It just goes to show that history is a dynamic thing and with new resources coming online all the time, I will probably revisit the Glenroy Hospital at a later date.

Alice Prichard

Portrait of Miss A. M. Prichard RRC, matron of 42nd British General Hospital which was one of the four hospitals at Salonika staffed by the AIF. Image Courtesy AWM. Image A01891. 

Alice Prichard hailed from the north of Victoria and had been the Matron of Mildura Hospital prior to enlistment. Her sister Florence also served as a nurse and had previously been head nurse at Albury Hospital. Four brothers (Frederick, Leslie, Charles and Richard) also served in the war, so  their mother, Mary, of 'Greenvale', Glenrowan must have had a very anxious time. 

During a brief return to Australia after the Gallipoli campaign, Alice Prichard served as Matron of the Glenroy Hospital. (She was a trained infectious diseases nurse.) She then returned to the war front. After discharge, she moved to Sydney to work.

Benalla Standard, 26 June 1917

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Staff of the Glenroy Military Hospital

Detail of photo of 'Ashleigh', site of Glenroy Military Hospital. 
Image courtesy Broadmeadows Historical Society.

I was interested to know who worked at the Glenroy Military Hospital. Again, it hasn’t been an easy task and it has been soldiers’ attestation papers and newspaper reports that have given me most of my information.
It seems that most of the nurses, orderlies and doctors who worked there had yet to embark for overseas. It is hard to tell how long they were assigned to the hospital, but it seems that it was for brief periods only, perhaps only a few weeks.


Sister Hilda Adelaide Allen, aged 28, of Elwood, who had worked previously at the Melbourne Hospital, was on the staff of the Glenroy Military Hospital in October 1915, just prior to enlisting. She embarked In November 1915 and served in Egypt, England and France. She returned to Australia in March 1919. She didn’t marry and died at Elsternwick in 1979.
Sister SarahLeatham Duff was 36 when she enlisted on 18 October 1916 and gave her address as the Military Hospital, Glenroy. There is no way of knowing how long she had worked at the hospital. By the mid-1920s, Sister Duff was in charge of the Truby King Baby Health Centre in Coburg.

Some patients and staff on the verandah outside the Isolation Ward at No 5 Australian General Hospital at St Kilda. Although this image was not taken at Glenroy, it gives you an idea of what measures were taken to try to avoid being infected by contagious patients. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial. Image H18693A  Melbourne, Victoria. 


Lance Corporal Herbert Cobb of Brunswick was attached to the Glenroy Hospital and the hospital at Broadmeadows before heading overseas in late 1916. In Europe, he served as a medical orderly in the Australian Medical Corps. Born in London, he enlisted in Melbourne, but married while in England during the war and returned there to live after the war.
Lieutenant Arthur Frank Stanley Dobson was a 26 year old solicitor and accountant of South Yarra when he enlisted. He was appointed to Glenroy Military Hospital from 14 Sep 1916 to 1 Oct 1916 then he went to MacLeod before going overseas in 1917. He ended up in the Flying Corps.


Fifty year old Captain Victor Joseph Emmanuel Zichy- Woinarski was appointed a medical officer at the end of September 1915. He served overseas briefly but was  back in Australia by the end of Jan 1916. His wife Gertrude was a highly regarded community welfare worker who was a prominent member of the Melbourne Ladies’Benevolent Society. His son Casimir served in the war and his daughter Valerie, who had been a theatre nurse at Ballarat Hospital, served as a nursing sister.

There were other staff, of course, and volunteer workers, too. I would be extremely interested to hear from anyone who can tell me more about who worked at the Glenroy Military Hospital during World War One.

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.

Wednesday, 3 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.

Tuesday, 2 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.