The Wartime Memories Project - The Great War

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The 5th Northern General Hospital, Leicester

The 5th Northern General Hospital was located in the buildings which had previously been the Leicestershire Lunatic Asylum. The county asylum was completed built in 1837 near the racecourse on what is now University Road. By the late 1880s overcrowding was endemic and a new institution was built at Narborough.

The old asylum remained empty until 1914 when, on the outbreak of the first World War, it became an army medical hospital, the 5th Northern General Hospital. It had 111 Officer beds and 2487 Other Ranks beds. It closed in 1919, and the building was eventually re-used as a university college.

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  • The Wartime Memories Project is the original WW1 and WW2 commemoration website

    This website has been running for 18 years and receives in excess of a million hits per month. The website and our group will continue long after the 2014-18 events are over. We hope that people will continue to support us by submitting material and stories in addition to submitting to the new websites set up for the anniversary.

  • We are looking for volunteers to help with researching the activities of units of the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Territorial Force, Regular Army, Pals Battalions, Kitchener's New Armies, Voluntary Organisations and the Ships of the Royal Navy. We currently have a huge backlog of stories and historical documents which need to be edited or transcribed for display online, if you have a good standard of written English, an interest in the two World Wars and a little time to spare online we would appreciate your help. For more information please see our page on Volunteering.

Wanted: Digital copies of Group photographs, Scrapbooks, Autograph books, photo albums, newspaper clippings, letters, postcards and ephemera relating to the Great War. If you have any unwanted photographs, documents or items from the First or Second World War, please do not destroy them. The Wartime Memories Project will give them a good home and ensure that they are used for educational purposes. Please get in touch for the postal address, do not sent them to our PO Box as packages are not accepted.

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Feb 2018

    Please note we currently have a backlog of submitted material, our volunteers are working through this as quickly as possible and all names, stories and photos will be added to the site. If you have already submitted a story to the site and your UID reference number is higher than 239080 your submission is still in the queue, please do not resubmit without contacting us first.

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Did you know? We also have a section on World War Two. and a Timecapsule to preserve stories from other conflicts for future generations.

List of those who served at the 5th Northern General Hospital, Leicester during The Great War

List of those who were treated at the 5th Northern General Hospital, Leicester during The Great War

  • L/sgt Andrew Charles "Mac" McIver 2nd Btn. Durham Light Infantry Read his Story.If you have any names to add to this list, or any recollections or photos of those listed, please get in touch.

L/sgt Andrew Charles "Mac" McIver 2nd Btn. Durham Light Infantry

From his service records, I have discovered that my grandfather Andrew Charles McIver initially joined the special reserves at the age of 17, ( No 400700 ). After a few months he reached the age of 18 and joined the Durham Light Infantry, ( No 11555 ), and I believe, posted to Colchester for training with the 3rd Battalion. He was posted to France in May or June 1915 to join the 2nd battalion DLI, where, on the 8th August he received a bayonet wound at the "Hooge". He was sent to the 5th northern hospital in Leicester for treatment until Dec 1916 when he posted back to France. Between this posting date and Mar 1917 he was gassed and once again returned to England but only until May 1917 when he was returned to France but I am unsure if he was still part of the DLI or he had at this point was in the 798 area employment coy. Its very difficult to decipher the service records as they are very faint and damaged, I do however know that in May 1919 he was a stretcher bearer at the Windmill camp in Boulogne from an order slip that he kept that is now 90 years old. On his discharge he was serving as a L/sgt with the West Yorkshire Regiment at the Northern command discharge centre in Ripon. Grandad very rarely spoke of his time in WW1 so its only by the aid of various wesites, mostly unreadable records and the DLI museum that this part of his life can be recorded and remembered.

The only story that he ever related to me was that at some time he was a "runner" between trenches. On carrying a message to his officer he was slightly wounded in the leg, when entering the command post his officer glared at him and ask " why are you not standing straight man", "I've been injured in the leg sir, sorry sir", grandad replied, with that the officer moved over to him and proceeded to cut open his trouser leg, with this grandad got very aggitated, " stay still, whats wrong with you man?" the officer growled, "Its the other leg sir", said poor grandad. He went two days with a racy split in his trouser leg.

D Coldrake

Pte. Colin Smart Royal Army Medical Corps

Colin was posted to the 5th Northern General Hospital, Leicester, on January 19th 1918.

Alexander Cunningham

Sjt. Albert Edward Chatfield Northumberland Fusiliers

Albert Edward Chatfield was born in the east end of London on 19 November 1890 to Richard Chatfield and Ellen Landenberger Chatfield. He was the fourth of nine known children, only four surviving to adulthood. The family story is that he left home at 12 or 13 to join the British Navy, giving a false age. By age 14 he had left the British Navy and joined the British Army (falsely) listing his birth year as 1884. Albert was in the British Army, from April 1905 to May 26, 1919. In 1911, Albert was serving in Rawalpindi, India (now Pakistan) with the lst Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. Rawalpindi was the headquarters of the British command in India and housed the largest garrison of British soldiers stationed there.

On 13 August 1914, Albert departed England with his regiment, landing at Le Havre several hours later. The regiment disembarked on the 14th and suffered their first casualties on the 23rd of August. A member of the Machine Gun Corps, Albert was wounded on 09 September 1914 in France at the 1st Battle of the Marne. He was strafed by machine gun fire and was sent to 5th Northern General Hospital in Leicester to recover. In October of 1914 it is believed that he continued his convalescence in the Morpeth area. He subsequently returned to action and was eventually discharged in May of 1919.

Pursuant to his Discharge papers he was part of the Northumberland Fusiliers, Machine Gun Corps. His army service included service in India, Turkey, and possibly Africa as well as serving in France in WWI. Albert earned the following medals: 1914 Star, British War Medal, British Victory Medal, Croix de Guerre. Regimental Numbers listed on his medal cards include 1170, 17247, and A-442775. In a letter from Staff Sergeant T. Whelton of the RASC dated May 1st, 1920, Constantinople, after Albert's discharge from the military, Staff Sergeant Whelton stated, "Sgt. Chatfield's work with me has been very satisfactory. He is willing, earnest & sober and has considerable experience of shipping."

Albert immigrated to Canada in July 1921 on the S.S. Vedic. He entered the port of Montreal and from there settled in Toronto. He became a police officer (possibly with the railway police) and eventually met his wife Greeta House in Michigan while investigating a case. They married in 1924, settling in Detroit. They had four children: a son, Nelson Chatfield (Greeta's son from a prior marriage, adopted by Albert), and three daughters, Ellen, Barbara and Dora. Albert played the banjo and mandolin. He was very hard-working, handy and maintained a large garden on family property in Hartland, Michigan. His garden was used to subsidize the family's food rations during WWII. He worked in the auto industry. Greeta died in 1944 and Albert finished raising his family as a single father. Albert died in 1958. At the time of death he was visiting his daughter, Dora Elizabeth Chatfield Leech who resided in Arizona. He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan alongside his beloved wife, Greeta.

Carol Hermann

Sgt. John Richard Taylor 337th Brigade, 340th Bty. Royal Field Artillery

Jack Taylor and Miss Petrie: A Love Recalled

When I began to research my mother's family, the Taylors of Joseph Street, Bow, I was asked by various relatives who was Miss Petrie? The question was always posed with a smile. I learned from them that Miss Petrie, a society lady, had nursed my wounded grandfather, John Richard (Jack) Taylor, during the Great War. For some years after she visited his home and helped his family. Contact had been lost almost ninety years ago, and as the older members of the family had passed, there seemed to be little chance of finding an answer to the question. But in 2013, a chance reading of a family history magazine told me that the National Archives had recently made available records of army nurses from the First World War. I was fortunate that the nurse I was seeking had a less common surname and I soon found a Miss Susie Constance Petrie in the medal card index. Could this be the one? Some cross-checking against census and probate records showed that this Miss Petrie was from a wealthy family. And there was even better news when I found that a descendant was researching the Petrie family. After an exchange of e-mails and contacts with the wider Petrie family, they confirmed that Susie had indeed taken care of my grandfather in 1916, now exactly 100 years ago.

John Richard Taylor had been born on 18 April 1887, the second oldest of the nine known children of John Taylor and Sarah Berry at 15 Crown Place, Mile End Old Town. Over the next decade the family moved to Dunk Street, Whitechapel and then back to Ernest Street, Stepney. Jack was just 17 when he married Mary Ann Maud (Polly) Wright, who was four years older, on 26 February 1905 at St Johns, Halley Street, Limehouse. The marriage was timely as Polly gave birth to Mary Ann Eugenie four months later, the oldest of up to thirteen children born or still born over the next 25 years (nobody is quite sure of the actual number). Sadly daughter Mary only survived for four months before succumbing to tubercular meningitis.

In his civilian life Jack worked as a packer or wholesaler at a glass and china warehouse in Houndsditch. At the outbreak of the Great War he enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery at Canning Town. He was promoted from Driver to Sergeant on 26 August 1915, just before his first overseas assignment. Military records show that he initially served in France, where the family recalls that he had a horse called Polly. According to a recurring family joke, it is not certain if the horse was named after his wife, or his wife was named after the horse.

He fought on the Somme, the largest battle of the First World War, where more than one million were wounded or killed. Jack was one of the casualties. He was hit by gunshot on Sunday 30 July 1916 at a place listed as HiM, although the Royal Artillery Museum could not decipher or find the exact location.

Jack was treated in the field before being evacuated to England on 2nd August 1916 on HM Hospital Ship St David. Jack is recorded as being admitted to the 5th Northern General Hospital in Leicester on 3rd of August 1916 with GSW (gunshot wounds) to the left side of his face and head. He remained at the hospital until 5th of October 1916.

Jack made sufficient recovery to be pictured with his Battery at Canterbury in March 1917. He embarked from Southampton for Alexandria in April 1917, arriving in Egypt in June 1917. He was to spend over a year in the Near East, fighting in Palestine, Gaza and Jerusalem with the 74th Division known as the Broken Spurs. He fought again in France in 1918 before being discharged in 1919.

Jack applied for a disability pension and was examined in November 1919 at the Medical Board, 62 Conduit Street, London W1. Jack complained of headaches and general nervousness. The Doctor considered the wounds, including the gunshot wounds to the head, to be superficial, saying that scars on the back of the left side of head had healed. He said that while Jack had suffered impairment during his service, he had recovered, continuing that there were no bone injuries, no tremors and he had found the heart and lungs to be normal. His application for disability benefit was rejected.

But Jack never did fully recover; his daughter Hetty remembered small pieces of shrapnel emerging from the side of his head for many years after the end of the war. And the family remembers that this was when Jack started drinking heavily; there was no recognition of post-traumatic stress in 1919.

Susie Constance Petrie had been born in Hampstead in 1889, the daughter of an affluent Marine Insurance Broker. When her father retired the Petrie family first moved to Margate in Kent, but by the time he died in 1906 the family had moved to Westbury-on-Trym, where Susie was baptised in 1907, aged 17, shortly after her father's passing. In spite of great wealth within the family, which was confirmed by her father's will, Susie chose to work as a Governess to a private family and this is shown on the 1911 census. Soon after war broke out in 1914, Susie volunteered to be part of the Territorial Force Nursing Service as a Special Military Probationer. Her aim was primarily to care for her serving brothers, although in the end their paths did not cross. She served at the Northern General Hospital and was awarded a medal at the end of her service.

Miss Petrie spent months caring for Jack who might otherwise have died. Both families recall that during this time Susie became very fond of her patient. Her niece thought that she had probably fallen in love with Jack as she spoke about him for decades afterwards. At this point life might have taken quite a different course. Jack could have abandoned his relatively poor family in the East End for a wealthy woman, who was in love with him. Susie, disappointed in love, might simply have walked away and forgotten him. Instead, and after discovering that he was a married man with a family, Susie became determined to help Jack and his children. Miss Petrie married a man twelve years her senior in 1920, but kept in contact with the Taylor family for many years. She made frequent visits to the East End, sometimes with her brother Lionel, who would also call at the family home at Joseph Street.

Soon after the war, Susie was able to get Jacks two oldest boys, John Henry and Albert Edward, into service with families she knew and in 1928 Susie arranged a job for daughter Hetty (Harriet Lilian) at a French couturier in Bond Street, where she was a customer. But Polly, worried about her fourteen year-old daughter travelling up west by herself, found Hetty a less glamorous job locally as a radio assembler. The reasons for the visits to the East End by Susie and Lionel remained a mystery to the Petrie family until our exchange of correspondence in 2013. But they say this would have been typical of Susie; her niece recalls that Susie was one of the kindest and most generous women she knew.

So Jack remained with his family and continued to work as a packer, until retirement after which he picked up occasional work as a night watchman or as a garage attendant. In later life, Jack suffered from chest complaints exacerbated by the Great Smog of December 1952. On the last day of that year he was again taken ill and passed away shortly after on 1 January 1953 at Mile End Hospital, just a few yards from where he had been born. He was 65. Polly was to die two years later in June 1955. And Susie passed away in 1966 at Clevedon in Somerset. All three are fondly remembered by the Taylor family.

1917 John Richard (Jack) Taylor, bottom row, third from right

Kevin Carter

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