David’s find from World War One

Published on: 09 Oct 2015

DAVID BARTLETTA DOWNEND man has discovered an autograph book featuring messages from injured soldiers treated during Southmead’s time as a First World War hospital.
David Bartlett found the messages to his step-father’s first wife, Mrs Gough, who was a nurse at Southmead Hospital  a century ago.
David, 76, who recently began working as a volunteer Move Maker at the new hospital, loaned the item for an exhibition inside the new Brunel building last month.
It went on show alongside a photograph album from another nurse who worked on the wards during the war and postcards from the time.
Mrs Gough was working in Ward One of the old Southmead Hospital. The messages in her autograph book date back to late 1915 and 1916 and range from cheeky requests for a kiss to limericks and a dedication to a Drummer who ended up at Southmead Hospital after losing both of his eyes, an arm and part of his hand in an explosion.
David said: “When I read through the messages some of them are very sad.
“I knew nothing about the war so it is nice to be able to read of people who put their lives at risk, defending us on the Front, who were unfortunately injured but wanted to take the trouble to write and thank the nurses who were looking after them.”
Southmead was a military hospital from 1914 – 1918 and was part of the 2nd Southern General Hospital. During the war 37,397 patients were admitted to the hospital with only 192 dying in the wards.
Injured soldiers, sailors and airmen - including some from Australia, New Zealand and Canada - arrived at Temple Meads on hospital trains. Southmead Hospital treated shrapnel wounds and shellshock and also provided rehabilitation for badly-injured soldiers with workshops where they could learn crafts to help them earn a living in civilian life.
As well as Mrs Gough’s autograph book, Beatrice Hutton’s photograph album from her time at Southmead Hospital during the First World War also give a picture of what it was like on the wards during that period.
Her captioned photographs show groups of patients posing outside of the hospital, nurses cleaning the wards and wounded men in hospital beds being wheeled into the grounds.
The exhibition also includes scans of original postcards sent from the hospital by wounded soldiers.
Among the postcards are those showing the hospital in a rural location, a soldier standing at the gates by Southmead Road, patients waving from a balcony in the old hospital building and kitchen staff preparing to carve a joint of beef.
Messages on the postcards were upbeat as the soldiers wrote to their families to let them know they were back in the UK and safe.
Oral historian and researcher Mary Ingoldby uncovered some of the items that feature in the exhibition while researching the old Beaufort War Hospital in Fishponds, which was later known as Glenside Hospital, and felt they could be incorporated as part of commemorations of the First World War and the old Southmead Hospital.
“People who know the old Southmead will recognise quite a lot of the locations,” she said.
“What is fascinating is that we are getting a glimpse of exactly 100 years ago and what was happening here and the people that were walking around the hospital.”
Additional items were lent to the hospital for the exhibition by Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and Glenside Hospital Museum.
These were displayed alongside Western Daily Press articles dating back to 1916, including a story about convalescing soldiers from Southmead and Beaufort hospitals playing cricket against each other.
The two-day Fresh Arts Festival highlighted the role that the arts and creativity play in supporting healthcare.
It was a chance for  local people who have not yet visited the hospital the chance to take a look inside the Brunel building and see how it was designed to be a more pleasant environment for patients, staff and visitors, incorporating art to both distract and help people relax.
The festival also showcased some of the projects that patients, staff and volunteers have been involved with inside the hospital and the local community.

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