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Hylands House Military Hospital WWI Chelmsford
Part of the house was converted into a military hospital by owner Sir Daniel Gooch during the first few months of WWI and was visited by Lord Kitchener of Khartoum in August 1915. This was Kitchener's only visit to Chelmsford.
Photo courtesy of Alexandra Edwards (nee Rainey).
Over 1.500 patients were treated until Hylands House closed as a military hospital in 1919.
If you would like to contribute any information or photographs of Hylands House Military Hospital then please contact me.
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The following has been researched by Linda Knock and Shirley Harman in June 2014 and is reproduced here with kind permission.
Through the Great War at Hylands Military Hospital
At the beginning of the war Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch placed the ground floor of the mansion at the disposal of the military and the whole of the ground floor was given up for the purposes of the hospital, with five wards. [one hundred beds]. All the lockers in the hospital, for the patients’ personal belongings, were made by Sir Daniel, an expert hand at carpentry.
The hospital was opened on Thursday 14th August 1914, and on 15th August Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch made the following offer to the British Red Cross Society – that they would provide a hospital in their house for urgent or convalescent cases, and fund twenty of the beds complete [all necessary cooking, electric light, coals and water, fruit and vegetables, partridges, pheasants, rabbits, etc.; the laundry, the staff, assisted by the Voluntary Aid Detachment and a resident medical officer]. However, the 2nd and 3rd South Midland Field Ambulance Corps took the hospital over until 10th October, treating with much success about 400 men, some whose circumstances required being treated in well-equipped hospital tents in the grounds.
19th September 1914
Sir Daniel left to join the Antarctic Expedition from Liverpool. Sir Daniel, an expert breeder of greyhounds, was called on to join his friend, Sir Ernest Shackleton, on his expedition. He was there to look after the dogs after the chosen dog-handler withdrew his services at the last minute. He sailed on 19th September from Liverpool, with the dogs and on reaching Buenos Aires signed on board the Endurance as an able seaman. It was commented on that in that day and age there cannot have been many Knights of the Realm who went to sea with the rank of Able Seaman! He went with the expedition as far as the ice.
Saturday 10th October 1914
A condition of the use of the hospital by the Field Ambulance was that they should be prepared to vacate it in twenty-four hours if required to do so, since the offer to the British Red Cross Society was still open. On 10th October Lady Gooch had a phone-call from the War Office at 11.30 p.m., asking her to take in some thirty or more Belgian wounded. The reply was that the hospital was in the hands of the military, but that they were under contract to leave in twenty-four hours. The next morning, the War Office asked that the twenty-four hours’ notice be given.
Wednesday 14th October 1914
On the morning of 14th October, the day on which the King visited Hylands to inspect the troops, the five cases then remaining in the hospital were removed to Chelsea Hospital by the resident medical officer. Also, on this day five thousand wounded Belgian soldiers were landed at Dover.
Friday 16th October 1914
The wards were ready for the Belgian wounded, and it was expected that the Belgian soldiers would arrive at military hospitals in Chelmsford, Maldon and other Essex towns today.
In the Chelmsford Chronicle of 16th October after the report of the King’s visit the piece below was printed!
The following appeared in a paper on Wednesday:-
“The King and Major Clive Wigram, both dressed in khaki uniform, left Buckingham Palace today by motor car for Hylands Park, Chelmsford, which is being given over by Colonel Lockwood, M.P., for the training of troops.”
Where did this information come from?’
Tuesday 20th October 1914
The headquarters of the 2nd and 3rd South Midland Field Ambulance had been transferred to Oaklands Hospital in Chelmsford, and Lady Gooch let the War Office know that all was ready at Hylands. In addition, she would provide a fully equipped operating theatre and this was quickly done. An X-ray machine was in the process of being installed. So - all was ready for the arrival of the wounded Belgian soldiers. There were four trained nurses in the Hospital, under Sister Rosling and Doctors Alford, Gimson, Newton and Martin [an anaesthetist] of Chelmsford, promised their services as the medical staff. The wounded soldiers were expected at Hylands very soon.
Friday 23rd October 1914
[Below is the report from Chelmsford Chronicle of 30th October]
At 2.15 on Friday afternoon the first batch of British wounded soldiers arrived at Chelmsford en route for the temporary hospital at Hylands, where magnificently equipped wards have been fitted up, through the kindness of Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch. The wounded, who numbered 30, came up from Harwich by train, which arrived half an hour late, and on the same train were many German prisoners from the fighting lines.
Every preparation had been made by the local V.A.D in conjunction with the Royal Army Medical Corps for the conveyance of the wounded from the train to the ambulance wagons and motors, which were drawn up on what is known as the milk van siding. [The ‘halt’ was originally made so that guests coming by rail could be met there and transported the half mile to the House.] About 30 of the V.A.D., under Captain W. G. Wenley, the commandant; the instructor, Mr E. G. Runter; and the Hon. Sec., Mr L. A. Hockley, who have been drilling hard to render themselves efficient, were on parade. There were only five stretcher cases, and these were dealt with in a way which reflected credit upon all concerned. Most of the wounded were in an advanced convalescent stage, quite able to walk; others with the aid of a stick were able to hobble along; and some proceeded quite comfortably with a little assistance from friendly arms, while three or four went “piggy-back” wise. The wounds were principally about the feet, legs and hands, and in a few instances about the head. Doctors Newton and Gimson supervised the removal of the bad cases, and an Army surgeon who travelled with the soldiers, and Captain Green of the South-Midland Division, who supplied ambulance vans, rendered assistance. The vehicles were in charge of the R.A.M.C. of the above division. The stretcher cases were accompanied in a motor van, which Mr J. W. Austin had fitted up in a clever manner to take six or seven patients, novel racks holding the stretchers.
Within quarter of an hour of the arrival of the train all the men were comfortably placed in their vehicles and a start was made for Hylands very soon afterwards. The most recovered cases rode in ordinary motor cars, which had been lent. In one rode Mr Liebert, Sir Daniel Gooch’s private secretary, who was present to assist in the arrangements.
All the stretcher cases consisted of wounds in the feet and legs. One poor fellow, badly shot through both legs, bore his removal with remarkable fortitude, although evidently suffering acutely. Another stretcher case was that of quite a lad, whose right foot was swathed in bandages, and who was enjoying a cigarette. Several Scottish regiments were represented, but as they were all in khaki it was difficult to distinguish their regiments.
Their arrival had been kept a profound secret, but the sight of the ambulances brought together quite a number of people, who witnessed the work of removal. Some of the wounded were very cheerful and responded gaily to the good wishes expressed.
A representative of this paper ascertained from one, who had been shot through the thigh by a rifle bullet, that the men were brought to Harwich on Wednesday. He was hoping in a few weeks to be well enough to re-join his regiment. He was one of four “pals” who had survived. One bystander suggested that it must have been “hot out there," and, with a broad smile, the wounded warrior replied, “Well, it was warm enough to be comfortable!”
It is expected that members of the V.A.D. will act as orderlies at Hylands, whilst the Women’s V.A.D. will assist in the nursing.
The German prisoners on the train, who were in charge of armed escorts, gazed out of their carriage windows wonderingly. They all appeared happy, and two were singing some German lines. It was noticed that the officers were accompanied by British officers, and that they were given first-class carriages.
Saturday 31st October 1914
Numbers of British wounded had arrived at Chelmsford for treatment in Hylands Hospital, and of Belgian wounded at Colchester and Chelmsford for treatment respectively in the Colchester Garrison and the private Hospital at Skreens, Roxwell.
Wednesday 4th November 1914
About 20 wounded Belgians arrived at Chelmsford and were conveyed in private motor cars to Hylands. These included Private Karel Louis Joseph Steylemans, who later died on 9th April 1915. Most were able to walk without assistance and there were no stretcher cases, but one ‘poor fellow’ had had his arm blown off.
Tuesday 10th November 1914
Private George Alexander Joseph was transferred to Hylands from the Colchester Military Hospital.
Thursday 12th November 1914
Private Joseph was operated on to amputate his leg.
Saturday 14th November 1914
The death took place at Hylands Hospital of Private George Joseph, 1st Battalion, Black Watch [Royal Highlanders]. He was the first of the wounded British soldiers in the Chelmsford area, to succumb to wounds. He was only 22 years old and was badly wounded by a shrapnel shell at Ypres on 27th September. The funeral took place in the Borough Cemetery with full military honours. The coffin was covered with the Union Jack and was laid on a gun carriage. His coffin was escorted from Hylands by a firing party with reversed arms [leaning on a weapon held upside down - a mark of respect or mourning for centuries]. The band of the 5th Gloucesters played the ‘Dead March in Saul’. At the close of the service, three volleys were fired and the buglers sounded ‘The Last Post’. The mourners included family members and there were many wreaths including one from Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch. Sir Daniel was represented by Mr Liebert and many of the Hospital staff were present.
Friday 25th December 1914
During the week before Christmas a group of Carol Singers had been singing around Chelmsford on behalf of Chelmsford Hospital and on Christmas Day they were transported to Hylands free of charge by a National Steam Car Company’s motor bus, and sang for the wounded soldiers. Lady Gooch had requested that Mr F.A. Cox arrange a concert on Christmas night for the house party and a large number of British and Belgian wounded soldiers in “C” Ward at the Hospital. The ward was nicely decorated and the entertainment was made up of ‘pianoforte’ solos and songs. At the end of the concert Captain Sharpe of the Royal Berkshire Regiment proposed a vote of thanks to Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch, and to those who had contributed to the programme. Cheers were also given for Lady Gooch and then the evening closed with the Belgian and English National Anthems.
Saturday 15th February 1915
Sir Daniel returned to Hylands from Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition.
Sunday 16th May 1915
Nearly 20 more wounded Belgian soldiers straight from the front were de-trained by Chelmsford V.A.D. and conveyed to Hylands Hospital. Quartermaster H Gripper and Pharmacist T Bellamy were once again in charge, with Section Leaders Runter, Hockley and Cowley.
Friday 9th April 1915
Private Karel Louis Joseph Steylemans, 1st Grenadiers, Belgian Army, who was admitted to the hospital in November 1914, suffering from shrapnel wounds in the hand, died on this day.
Monday 12th April 1915
Mr Coroner Lewis held the inquest concerning the death of Private Steylemans in Hylands House. At the inquest, Mary Winifred Rosling, sister-in-charge, said that he had remained at Hylands for eight weeks before being transferred to the House of Prayer, Pleshey, in the hope that the proposed amputation of a finger would not be necessary. Whilst at Pleshey he suffered from many bouts of influenza. During one of these bouts, a nurse taking his temperature left the room, and on her return, he said that he had bitten the end of the thermometer and swallowed it. The nurse was unable to find any trace of the bulb part, and Private Steylemans treated it as a joke. She washed his mouth out and reported the incident. He frequently suffered from fevers and placed cold bandages on his forehead. He developed a harsh cough, but he was ‘very full of jokes and pranks’, so little notice was taken. On 10th February he returned to Hylands Hospital where he was due to have his now useless finger amputated. However, his temperature continued to soar, and his cough worsened, and he complained of a deeply-seated pain under his breastbone. At the post mortem it was discovered that he had a small abscess on the trachea plus inflamed glands around it, but no trace of the foreign body. It would have been impossible to diagnose this abscess. The inquest decided that death was due to blood poisoning from an abscess, the result of some foreign body.
Tuesday 13th April 1915
The funeral of Private Steylemans took place with full military honours. The coffin, covered with the Belgian flag, had rested in the Roman Catholic Church overnight. Many people attended the funeral, including several convalescent Belgian soldiers, who afterwards followed the cortege to the Borough cemetery where the interment took place. The Glosters Royal Field Artillery band played the funeral music; their buglers sounded The Last Post, and the Warwickshire Royal Artillery provided the firing party and escort. Wreaths were sent from Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch and hospital staff.
Saturday 7th August 1915
Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War inspected the troops, comprising of the 2/1st South Midland Division in Hylands Park. ‘The event was an inspiring one’. Whilst he was at Hylands he spoke to a wounded soldier who asked him if he knew when the war would end. Lord Kitchener’s reply was ‘No, could you tell me?’
Monday 4th October 1915
On this day Lancelot Daniel Edward Gooch died in Malta. He was a naval officer, having left Naval College in August 1914 to join H.M.S Implacable as a midshipman.
Tuesday 5th October 1915 The Admiralty received a telegram, sent on 3rd October, to say that Midshipman Gooch was seriously ill with paralysis of his lower limbs and that arrangements were to be made for him to go to Malta and then on to England. As soon as Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch were informed, they hastened to the Foreign Office on their way to go to him, not knowing that he had already died. On this day a further telegram was sent to say that he had died. This reached them before they left London. [There is more about Lancelot in his file.]
Thursday 11th November 1915
Lancelot Gooch’s body was interred in a brick grave in Widford Churchyard after the funeral service in the church. The funeral directors were W.A. Lucking of New London Road, Chelmsford.
Sunday 5th December 1915
Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch presented a pair of candlesticks to Widford Church in memory of Lancelot.
Sunday 19th December 1915
A marble cross was erected over the grave of Lancelot in Widford churchyard.
At St John’s church in Moulsham they had an ‘egg service’ when the children brought 245 eggs which were later distributed among the Oaklands, Hylands and Chelmsford Red Cross Hospitals.
Wednesday 19th January 1916
Lady Gooch was present when Mr F.A. Cox took a party to Hylands and entertained the wounded soldiers with clever sketches and musical monologues and songs.
Thursday 3rd Friday February 1916
The Chelmsford Chronicle announced that a well-known trained nurse, Hilda Ayre Smith, had died of septicaemia at Hylands Hospital, aged 37. She had been there over a year, was a devoted nurse and was highly esteemed by the doctors and patients. She contracted blood poisoning through dressing the seriously wounded cases which were dealt with at Hylands. When she became ill she received every attention from Dr Gimson and the other doctors, including a London specialist, but nothing could be done to save her, and she passed away in forty-eight hours. Sir Daniel attended her funeral in Norwood Cemetery on 3rd February and there were wreaths from Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch and from the nurses and orderlies.
The Hospital was closed for three weeks for the customary cleaning and the patients were distributed amongst the Colchester and other military hospitals.
Tuesday 2nd March 1916 – CONSCRIPTION!
Friday 14th April 1916
Pte Frederick Edward Johnson, then in the Essex Regiment, from 4 Spainscroft, Widford, was admitted to the hospital.
September and October 1916 - local tribunals
In September Sir Daniel appealed for William Heath, the head gardener at Hylands. Seven men had already joined the Forces, and Mr Heath grew vegetables for the Hylands Hospital, with the surplus going to the Red Cross Hospital in Chelmsford. Mr R.A. Liebert appeared to support the appeal. The result was a conditional exemption.
In October Hugh Jackson, aged 34, a married hairdresser from Baddow Road, was passed for garrison service. He appealed on the grounds that his was a ‘one man business’. He had attended regularly on the wounded at Hylands Hospital free of charge. He had offered £2 a week for lady hairdressers, but he could get nobody; he had given a lad of 18 £2 a week. The result was a conditional exemption while doing voluntary work.
Thursday 28th December 1916
Wounded soldiers from Hylands, Oaklands and the Red Cross Hospitals were treated to ‘a capital entertainment and a bountiful tea’ at St John’s School. Cigarettes, etc. were provided!
Monday 18th June 1917
During a heavy thunderstorm, lightning caused electric wires to fuse at Hylands and set the roof on fire. The mansion fire brigade, hospital orderlies and others at once set to work, and after strenuous efforts for an hour and a half, they overcame the flames and averted the danger of destruction. The damage was estimated at between £40 and £60.
Monday 8th September 1917
Two patients in the hospital, Lance Corporals J Mackinnon, Cameron Highlanders and Samuel John Barrow, Australian Imperial Force were presented with military medals by Major-General H Ruggles-Brise, C.B., in the presence of all the patients, nursing staff, and medical officers. After the presentation the General and his staff inspected the Hospital, and highly commended Lady Gooch on the efficiency and organisation.
Saturday 15th September 1917
The following advertisement appeared in the Essex Newsman –
’Wardmaid wanted for Hylands Hospital. Apply [personally if possible] to the Sister-in-Charge, Hylands Hospital, nr Chelmsford.’
Tuesday 23 October 1917
The Chelmsford Chronicle published a list of women whose names had been brought to the attention of the Secretary State for War for valuable services rendered in connection with the war. The following were recognised for work at the Hylands Auxiliary Hospital:-
Lady M.W. Gooch, commandant
Mrs F E Magor, commandant
Miss F.M Smith, matron
Miss M Callingham, nurse
Miss D Poole, nurse
Miss F Wells, nurse
Mr Liebert put a request in the Widford Parish magazine asking that if anyone in the parish had a relative who was wounded and in another hospital; and should either the relative or the soldier wish for a transfer to Hylands Hospital, then Mr Liebert would do his best to get the transfer put through. The patient or the relative had to apply directly to the Secretary, Hylands Auxiliary Military Hospital.
Tuesday 25th December 1917
A large number of wounded soldiers from Hylands Hospital attended morning service at Widford Church where the chancel was decorated for Christmas.
Wednesday, 23rd January, 1918
Private Louis Carl Albert Hopp, 42nd Battalion, Australian Infantry, who had been wounded in action, died from pneumonia, aged 26.
Saturday 26th January 1918
Private Hopp’s funeral, arranged by W. A. Lucking of Chelmsford, took place at Widford Church with full military honours. The band of the Graduating Battalion, Warwickshire Regiment played and also provided the firing party and bearers; the gun carriage was provided by the 32nd Company, Army Service Corps, stationed in Chelmsford. The coffin was followed by a representative of the Australian Imperial Headquarters and some of the wounded from Hylands, the remainder of the patients meeting the cortege at the church. Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch, and staff from the hospital plus a large number of villagers attended. There were services in the church and at the graveside, where the last Post was sounded by one of the Bandsmen. There were many wreaths including one from Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch.
Monday 4th February 1918
The death of Private George Henry Gough, of 16th Battalion, Canadian Infantry, occurred at Hylands Auxiliary Hospital on this day. The deceased who was 22 years of age, had only been in the Hospital for three days, suffering from gunshot wounds to his wrist and shoulder, as well as from a fractured skull. He developed alarming symptoms on Monday, and it was found necessary to operate immediately, but the poor fellow died four hours afterwards. The funeral took place with full military honours at Widford Churchyard yesterday, the service being conducted by the Rev. C.E. Buck, United Army Board chaplain. The band and the firing party were supplied by the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. The deceased’s brother, Private James Gough, of the same regiment, who had been wounded three times and was still patient in the Canadian military hospital in Orpington, attended the funeral. Among those present at the graveside were Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch, Mr R. A. D. Liebert, Honorary Secretary to the hospital, the nurses, orderlies and patients. Floral tributes were received from Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch, the staff and the patients at Hylands Hospital.
Sunday 25th August 1918
Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch were amongst the patrons of a concert at the Regent Theatre in Chelmsford in aid of personal comforts for the wounded soldiers at Hylands, Writtle and the Chelmsford Red Cross Hospitals. A telegram from the Prime Minister was read out –
‘I heartily wish you every success in your efforts to raise funds in aid of wounded soldiers and Red Cross hospitals and I congratulate those who are to receive Military Medals.
D Lloyd George’
During the interval three military medals were presented to men who were in the Red Cross Hospitals, for ‘constant bravery in the field’.
On the same day during the afternoon 170 wounded soldiers from the local hospitals were entertained in the London Road Congregational School. The concert party gave a fine programme, and light refreshments, thousands of cigarettes, etc., were distributed among ‘the warriors’.
Friday 11th April 1919
The closing of the Hospital was celebrated by a “Demobilisation dance” given by Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch. A fine Jazz band was provided. One of the wards had been re-decorated and provided with an excellent dance floor. Supper was in the large dining room.
A presentation was made to Lady Gooch by the staff and patients on the day of closing, of a silver cigarette case, accompanied by an illuminated address. The presentation was made by Private B Galloghly, 6th Camerons, from his bedside, the last patient to be evacuated. Her Ladyship was pleased that she had been able to do something to alleviate the pain and suffering of our brave wounded, and the memories of the past four and a half years would always remain with her.
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