The Military Hospital

Newhaven Boys’ School

In 1914, there were 4 Council Schools in Newhaven. They were Railway Road Infants, South Road Infants, the Girls’ School (also in South Road) and the Boys’ School at the Hillcrest Centre. The schools were managed by a committee of School Managers. They would meet every month to discuss the various issues affecting the schools, including those raised by the Head Teachers or the County Council’s Education Department. The Head Teacher at the Boys’ School was Mr Coker.

With war breaking out during the school holidays, the buildings were taken over by the military as interim accommodation. The schools remained closed until 12th October 1914, meaning that the children enjoyed a 10 week summer holiday! The Boys’ School, however, was taken over as a Military Hospital for the duration of the war. Initially, the boys were taught at the Church Room and Congregational Hall. Later they shared the Girls’ School, alternating weekly, mornings and afternoons.

Four teachers at the Boys’ School, Messrs Bulbeck, Maguire, Stace and Dudley, joined up at the beginning of the war. Finding replacements for them was difficult, so permission was sought for applications from women teachers to be accepted. During February and March 1919, the four teachers returned to their posts. Mr Maguire, however, was absent on a number of occasions suffering from the effects of gas poisoning.

Setting up the Hospital

In August 1914 work started on converting the Boys’ School into a Military Hospital.

When the work was completed, the hospital had 50 beds ready to take wounded from the Front, as well as sick and injured soldiers from the local training camps, and sailors and dock workers from the port.

At the end of August 1914, the officials from the Newhaven and Bishopstone Centre of the British Red Cross expressed their gratitude, through the East Sussex News, to everyone who had donated money and gifts to help equip the hospital. They also thanked the Downs Laundry, situated at 44 Meeching Road, for their offer to do the washing for the hospital.

Whilst some staff were paid, there were also many volunteers. The Quarter Master was Miss S. Scanes, Head Mistress of the Girls’ School, the Lady Superintendent was Mrs M. H. McGlashan and the Commandant was Mrs W. J. Mills.

On 31st July 1918, at an investiture at Buckingham Palace, Mrs McGlashan received the Royal Red Cross (Second Class) medal from the King for her work as Sister-in-Charge of the Hospital.

Red Cross Nurses at Newhaven

In October 1914, the School Managers sought permission from the Education Committee for four teachers from the Girls’ School and two from the Infants’ School, who were trained as Red Cross nurses, to be given permission to work at the hospital half a day a week. The Chairman of the School Managers, Mr J. S. Corbett, remarked “that it was very good of the local Red Cross nurses to devote so much time to the work. He had never seen a body of ladies more interested in their work than the Red Cross nurses in Newhaven”.

Permission was granted and the arrangement was that only two teachers from each school would be needed in any one week. This situation only lasted until the beginning of 1915, when Miss Scanes, the Head Mistress of the Girls’ School, withdrew the nurses. Dr McGlashan, who was both a School Manager and a Surgeon Captain in the RAMC at the Hospital, brought the matter to the attention of the School Managers. Whilst Miss Scanes had spoken to the Managers’ Correspondent and Rev Ham, another School Manager, explaining that the situation interfered with the teaching, Dr McGlashan felt that Miss Scanes should have waited for the Managers to discuss the matter before withdrawing her staff. A special meeting took place on 15th February 1915, when Miss Scanes and Miss Chadwick, the Head Mistress of the Infants’ School, were questioned regarding the withdrawal of teacher-nurses. Discussions continued over the next few months, after which the teacher-nurses themselves decided to undertake their nursing duties in their own time.

Double Sessions at the Girls’ School

Once the Boys’ School’s building had been requisitioned as a Military Hospital, the students were split between the Church Room in South Road and the Congregational Hall in Meeching Road. The rooms had poor ventilation and were over-crowded, with four classes being taught in one room. In an effort to overcome these difficulties, Mr Coker wrote to the School Managers in April 1915, suggesting double sessions at the Girls’ School. The boys would use the school in the mornings and the girls in the afternoons, alternating each week. In discussing the matter, Mr Hughes, one of the School Managers, exclaimed that “the Boys’ School was the most important of all, and yet they had the worst building”.

The Education Committee turned down the suggestion, so the School Managers considered the Drill Hall as alternative accommodation. However, in October, H.M. Inspector proposed double sessions, but with a shorter day than had been suggested by Mr Coker. So on 1st November 1915, double sessions began at the Girls’ School.

Whilst this was an improvement for the boys, it came with its own problems. Mr Corbett, one of the School Managers, said that “the girls and boys attended school half a day and were running the streets the other half and when the next day came they had forgotten what they had been taught on the previous day”. The School Managers were concerned that the children would be leaving school half educated, but despite their representations, double sessions continued for the remainder of the war.

Christmas at the Military Hospital

At Christmas 1914, 50 soldiers were receiving care at the Military Hospital. The events of the day were reported in the East Sussex News: “There was a profuse display of flags and holly to gladden the eye; luscious turkey, plum pudding and dessert to satisfy the inner man; sweet music afterwards to delight the ear; and tobacco to calm the nerves”.

The turkeys were given to the hospital by Archdeacon Southwell, the plum puddings by Major Mostyn, and the dessert, sweets and cigarettes by Captain and Sister McGlashan.

In the afternoon, there was a concert arranged by Mrs Marmery. Dr Hart presided and “highly pleased the company with his bagpipe selections”, whilst the patients were waited on by the Red Cross nurses. Short speeches were given by Gunners Reay and Day on behalf of the patients.

In 1917, Christmas lunch was cooked by Mrs Johnson and Mrs Cook, two VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses) and served by the officers of the RAMC. Entertainment in the afternoon included a concert by the Winkles, a local Concert Party. Major Wood read a message of Christmas greetings from the King, who wished the patients a speedy recovery. The patients told the reporter from the East Sussex News that “it will be many a long day before they forget Christmas, 1917, at the Newhaven Military Hospital”.

By Jenny Flood.

Photographs by kind permission of Newhaven Museum

Unless otherwise stated quotes are taken from the East Sussex News, copies of which are held at The Keep.