REPORT ON THE CONVALESCENT HOMES FOR THE NURSING STAFF IN FRANCE, 1914 – 1919
CROWN COPYRIGHT: THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES WO222/2134
CROWN COPYRIGHT: THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES WO222/2134
In War Establishments no provision had been made for Convalescent Homes for either Officers or Nursing Staff, and in the case of the latter, the Convalescent Homes opened during the War were all opened either under the auspices of the B.R.C.S. and Order of St. John of Jerusalem, or by the very kind interest of private individuals.
It was well recognised in 1914 that arrangements for Convalescent Homes needed to be made, and the British Red Cross Authorities were very soon arranged to establish one for the Nurses in the Boulogne and Wimereux Area, and on January 26th, 1915, the first Home was opened at Hardelot. Her Royal Highness Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, who had heard of the need of such a Home, very generously offered to lend her beautiful Villa for this purpose; it was most conveniently situated in the Forest of Hardelot, about ten miles from Boulogne. The accommodation was for 12. Sophie, the Lady Gifford, serving under the British Red Cross Society, was appointed Lady Superintendent, and Miss Inglis her assistant. The home was placed under the administration of the D.D.M.S., Boulogne, and a Medical Officer from the nearest Hospital, No. 25 General, was deputed to visit it regularly. All medicaments and medical comforts were provided free, and after a short time rations and fuel were issued by the Army on repayment. In all matters, except discipline, the Home was entirely under the management of the B.R.C.S., who provided crockery and extra equipment required. It was found necessary to make a general rule, which later applied to all Convalescent Homes, except those on the Riviera, that the average period of rest to be taken at Hardelot, unless longer periods were recommended by the Medical Officer, should not exceed 10 days, and that if any member was not considered sufficiently recovered for duty at the end of this time, she should be re-admitted to Hospital, and that anyone found requiring regular nursing after admission, should be sent to the Sick Sisters' Hospital, as none of the staff at Hardelot were fully trained. To this rule there were naturally many exceptions, and the length of time spent by the Nursing Staff at Hardelot has varied from 24 hours to 6 weeks.
During 1915, 683 Nurses of all Services and V.A.D. members were admitted, and the following year 645, so that during the two years ending January 26th 1917, 1,328 Members had benefited by the opening of this Home, where everyone enjoyed complete rest and change in entirely different surroundings and away from their work.
The accommodation which at first was for twelve only was soon increased to 16 and after the first six months to 21.
In the course of time it was arranged that all applications in respect of Members of the Nursing Staff, not only from the Boulogne Area, but from Calais and from Le Treport, Abbeville and the Armies, should be submitted to the Acting Principal Matron, Boulogne, who was in daily communication with Hardelot.
The British Red Cross Society had supplied to the Home a small motor bus, which amongst other things was used for the transport of Sisters.
The Home was closed at different times for short periods, either for the purpose of cleaning, or on account of an outbreak of measles, and in 1917, it was closed for a period of 21 days as one of the patients, Miss Evans, V.A.D., had developed cerebro-spinal meningitis. She was at once admitted to 14, Stationary Hospital, and it is regretted to say she died a month later. Fortunately none of the 13 Nurses who had remained in quarantine, developed any symptoms and the Home re-opened on July 14th.
Owing to the opening of the Convalescent Home at Cannes in November 1917, Princess Louise’s Convalescent Home at Hardelot was closed down temporarily for the season 1917-1918. When the question arose of opening it again at the end of April it was found that this was not possible, owing to the serious illness of the caretaker, who had been in the employment of Her Royal Highness for many years, and who with his wife had quarters in the villa. On this account three villas at Hardelot Plage were rented by the B.R.C.S. They were well situated near the sea front, and there was accommodation for as many as 45 Sisters. They were opened for admissions on May 11th, and Lady Gifford was again Lady Superintendent.
When the Convalescent Homes in the South were again reopened for the season 1918 – 1919, it was decided that as the closing down of Hardelot during the previous season had deprived many Sisters of a few days rest, which they badly needed, and had been the cause of others being unnecessarily sent sick to England, the Home at Hardelot would not for this season be altogether closed down, but would be transferred once more to the Princess Louise's Villa. The caretaker had died, the number of beds were sufficient, and Her Royal Highness had very graciously placed it at our disposal again. Lady Victoria de Trafford was appointed Lady Superintendent as Lady Gifford was in charge of the Home at Cannes. The Home closed down altogether at the end of May 1919.
From the time of its opening until its close, this Home was the very greatest boon. It was well situated in a central position so that many were able to benefit by it. Nurses were sent there to convalesce after sickness – they spent short periods of rest there after exceptionally strenuous work. Those to whom it was possible, were encouraged to spend their whole days and half days there. All were welcomed.
It was of the greatest assistance as regards the staffs of Casualty Clearing Stations; when their units closed, preparatory to opening elsewhere, they were able to rest at Hardelot, under different conditions, and were not too far away to be able to rejoin their units at short notice.
Finally, during the summer and early autumn of 1918, on account of its position it was a very valuable asset, and many Nurses were sent there to rest after their experience of air-raids. It was a restful Home and well-managed, and all invariably spoke well of the hospitality they received.
2. VERSAILLES, TREPORT, ETRETAT
Early in 1915, arrangements were made for 10 beds to be set aside for the use of Sisters in need of a rest, or convalescing after sickness. No.4 General Hospital was then established in the Trianon Palace Hotel, Versailles. It stood in such beautiful grounds that it was felt that Sisters, not only of this unit, but those from Rouen and other Areas might benefit by its position. When No.4 General Hospital moved to Camiers in January 1916, similar arrangements were made at Le Treport, at No.3 General Hospital, which was also in a splendid position in the Grand Hotel, situated at the top of a very high cliff, and directly overlooking the sea.
Similar arrangements were also made at No.1 General Hospital, Etretat, for the benefit of Sisters from Havre and Rouen.
3. LE TOUQUET
In February 1915, a very kind offer to establish a Convalescent Home for Nurses was received from Mrs. Brice Miller, who undertook, if her offer were accepted, to defray all expenses, and to bring over her own car for the use of the patients. The offer was accepted, and authority obtained for Mrs Brice Miller, her daughter and assistant, a servant and a chauffeur with a car, to come over to France.
It was decided that this Home should be established at Le Touquet, and should benefit chiefly the Nursing Service in the Etaples area. The house taken was a most comfortable one, known as Le Petit Chateau, and was capable of accommodating 8 patients. It was opened on June 4th 1915.
As in the case of the B.R.C.S. Homes, facilities were granted to Mrs. Brice Miller to obtain coal, rations, etc. from the Army on repayment.
On December 15th 1916, the Home was unofficially closed down for a period of three weeks, during which time both Mrs and Miss Brice Miller were in England. Owing partly to some misunderstanding, and partly to a new Army rule which required all such units to come directly under the management of the B.R.C.S., Mrs. Brice Miller decided not to re-open the Convalescent Home, which had originally opened as an independent unit, and which she felt would lose its character of an altogether private enterprise, supported at her own personal expense, if it were to come under a Society supported entirely by public funds.
From June 1915 to December 1916, many Nurses and V.A.D.’s were sent to Le Petit Chateau from Military Hospitals to recuperate, and all enjoyed their stay there. The very kind help so gladly and generously given by Mrs. Brice Miller at a time when there was urgent need for voluntary work of this kind, was very much appreciated, and had it not been that the British Red Cross Society had opened a Convalescent Home at Paris Plage, Mrs Brice Miller’s decision to permanently close hers would have been a very considerable loss to the Nursing Services.
On December 1st, 1916, the 2nd Convalescent Home, established under the auspices of the B.R.C.S., was opened at Etretat. The requirements of the Havre and Rouen areas had outgrown the small provision which had been made earlier, and it was felt that a Convalescent Home was a very great need. The Villa Orphee, capable of accommodating 20, was taken for this purpose, and was placed under the administration of the D.D.M.S. Havre, and during the first month 27 patients were admitted.
Lady Victoria de Trafford was appointed Superintendent, which post she held until December 1917, when it was taken over by Miss Farrer.
The Villa Orphee was used chiefly for the Nursing Staff of the Havre, Rouen and later of the Trouville area. It was well situated and it rendered valuable services.
5. PARIS PLAGE
During the third week of March 1917, the 3rd Convalescent Home, established under the auspices of the B.R.C.S. was opened at Paris Plage. The Villa taken was a very luxurious one, known as Merry Lodge, and capable of accommodation 40.
The Lady Superintendent was Miss Eaden and she was assisted by B.R.C.S. V.A.D.’s. This Villa which was placed under the administration of the D.D.M.S. Etaples, accomplished the work originally begun by Mrs. Brice Miller, and was chiefly made use of by the Sisters from the Etaples and Camiers Area, thus leaving the accommodation at Hardelot for the use of the Sisters from the Boulogne and other areas.
6. THE RIVIERA
For the winter season of 1915-1916 a very kind offer was made by the Lady Algernon Gordon Lennox to open a Convalescent at Cannes for the Nurses. Mrs Wilbraham Cooper had offered for this purpose her most beautiful Chateau de Torence which stands in a lovely park of 98 acres, beautifully kept with 5½ miles of walks. The proposal was that H.R.H. Princess Victoria should finance the Home as the Rest Clubs, of which the Lady Algernon Gordon Lennox was the director in France. However, after due consideration, owing chiefly to the question of transport, the Military Authorities did not see their way at the time to accept this gracious offer.
6a. VILLA ROQUEBRUNE
In 1915, Captain and Mrs. Warre had opened their villa at Roquebrune for the British Red Cross Nurses and Military Nurses who were invited to take their leave there, but no advantage was taken of this offer, on account of questions of expense.
For the season 1916-1917 an agreement was arrived at between Captain and Mrs. Warre and the Joint Committee of the British Red Cross Society and St. John of Jerusalem, by which it was decided to re-open the Villa Roquebrune as a Convalescent Home for the Nurses of all Services – 12 beds to be reserved for those serving with the Army, and four for those serving with the B.R.C.S.
Further, the Joint Committee very kindly undertook to pay all Railway expenses, and arranged to meet at Paris, and transport across Paris, all Nurses travelling to and from the South.
For the purposes of discipline and medical administration the Home was placed under the Command of the Michelham Convalescent Home for British Officers at Cap Martin, at a distance of about 10 minutes from the Villa Roquebrune.
During this season the number of Military Sisters and V.A.D.’s who spent periods of rest at the Villa was 79. Miss Sylvia Thompson (a civilian lady) was appointed Lady Superintendent.
The Home closed on 12.4.17 and reopened again on December 4th 1917.
At the request of both Captain and Mrs Warre a member of the Regular Service was appointed to carry out the duties of Lady Superintendent for the season 1917 –1918. Miss M. Wood, R.R.C., M.M., QAIMNS, who had done a very great deal of continuous work in Front Areas was selected to fill this post which she did most successfully.
Owing to the ever-increasing difficulty of obtaining locally both provisions and transport, authority was granted by the Adjutant General for both rations and fuel to be drawn from the Army by Mrs Warre, on repayment.
From December 4th, 1917, to April 21st 1918, 106 members of the Nursing Services spent periods of rest of from 14 days to 1 month at the villa. Owing to the Military situation at this time and the consequent difficulties of transport, after the third week of March, it became impossible to send Nurses south. A small number, requiring Convalescent Leave, were however admitted early in April – the last two leaving Roquebrune on April 21st when the Home was closed down.
At the end of 1918, Captain and Mrs Warre again lent their villa for the use of Convalescent Nursing Sisters, and V.A.D.’s. Miss W. M. Gedye, A.R.R.C., QAIMNS, was appointed Lady Superintendent, and she also filled this post most successfully. The first party of Sisters was received on November 4th 1918, and from that date until its close on April 15th 1919, 105 members of the Military Nursing Services, 1 member of the R.A.M.C. attached to the Q.M.A.A.C., and one member of the Catholic Women’s League had the privilege of spending their leave there. Besides this, with the full permission of Mrs Warre and the sanction of the D.G.M.S., 2 well-known members of the Nursing Service from the War Office, were recommended for sick leave to the South of France and had the privilege of a prolonged stay at this villa. Principal Matron G. M. Richards, QAIMNS, recovering from a severe attack of pneumonia, derived much benefit from her visit of 17 weeks from 13.11.18 to 27.3.19., and Dame Sidney Browne, Matron-in-Chief, T.F.N.S., was admitted on January 28th, after pneumonia. Unfortunately, on arrival, she developed phlebitis. A member of the T.F.N.S. was detailed to nurse her, and later a second T.F.N.S. member, with massage experience, was sent down to assist. After an illness of 8 weeks, Dame Sidney was transferred to the Marseilles Sisters’ Hospital, when the Home closed down, and from there she was evacuated to England when convalescent.
The generosity of Captain and Mrs Warre in placing their delightful villa and grounds so completely at the disposal of the Nurses each year, has been very fully appreciated by them as may well be seen by the numbers who have spent periods of leave there. They left their beautiful villa with all its luxuries, the table appointments, and even their own experienced servants for the benefit of the Sisters. It is felt that on behalf of all the Nursing Services, many thanks are due to Captain and Mrs. Warre for the great kindness and consideration which has been shown by them to the Nurses. Leave spent at Roquebrune has been one of the factors which has helped to maintain good health and good morale among the largest body of women in France. One felt truly grateful for being able to accord to so many this leave spent in such luxurious surroundings.
6b. HOTEL DE L’ESTEREL
The Villa Roquebrune in 1915 – 1916 was of such great benefit to the nursing Staff, and so many members who had applied to spend their leave there had been disappointed on account of lack of room, that the exceedingly kind offer of the B.R.C.S. to open a large Convalescent Home in the South for the winter season of 1916 – 1917 was very gladly accepted. The Hotel de l’Esterel at Cannes was secured by them and the total accommodation was for 100, though 75 beds only were at first used, 50 by the Military Services, and 25 by the B.R.C.S. It was decided that this Home should be looked upon as a Voluntary Hospital and supplies, rations, and medical comforts issued free, and fuel and light on repayment. The supplies to be drawn from Base supply depot, Marseilles.
For discipline and medical arrangements the Home was placed under the Command of the Michelham Home, Cap Martin. In the case of any slight indisposition the Commanding Officer of the Ambulance sud Africaine at Cannes – Colonel A. A. Casalis de Pury who had graciously offered his services, was called in and he reported on any case to the Commanding Officer at Cap Martin. For 1918 and 1919 this Home was placed under the administration of the A.D.M.S. Marseilles. As in the case of the Villa Roquebrune, Movement orders were issued to Sisters proceeding to Cannes and they were marked B.R.C.S. demi-tariff and the cost thus made chargeable to the Joint Committee.
The Establishment authorise for this was as follows:
1 Lady Superintendent
4 Lady Assistants
10 French Servants
1 V.A.D. Motor Driver
1 Ambulance Car
1 Motor Bus
Lady Gifford was appointed Lady Superintendent, and Miss Innes her Assistant.
The arrangement for the transport of the Nurses across Paris was made by the B.R.C.S. and they were authorised to take into use five box cars for their conveyance.
As far as possible it was arranged that each party of Sisters proceeding south should consist of six to ensure a railway compartment being reserved for their exclusive use. In order to suit the convenience of the B.R.C.S. the same arrangements were made for Sisters as for Officers proceeding to the Michelham Home, viz: Sisters were divided into two groups, those from the northern areas and those from the southern areas, and fixed days were allotted to each group.
The Hotel de l’Esterel opened on November 15th, 1917, and from that date to its close at the end of April 1918, 499 Nurses and V.A.D.’s of the Nursing Services in France had the privilege of spending periods of leave there. Of these 145 were members of the C.A.M.C., 72 members of the A.A.N.S., 32 members of the U.S.A.N.C., 17 members of the Harvard unit, 16 members of the S.A.M.N.S., 11 members of the N.Z.A.N.S., making a total of 293 Overseas members.
During the second season from November 1st 1918, to April 15th, 1919, 705 Members of the Nursing Services spent sick or ordinary leave there. Of these 110 were members of the C.A.M.C., 39 U.S.A.N.C., 63 A.A.N.S., 10 S.A.M.N.S., 6 N.Z.A.N.S., making a total of 228 members of Overseas at this Home alone, besides those who went to Casa del Mare and Villa Roquebrune.
Unless recommended for longer periods by the Medical Officers the usual leave granted was for 14 days, excluding the journey. Applicants from Sisters’ Hospitals proceeded with as little delay as possible consistent with Railway arrangements. Considered next after convalescing Sisters were those recommended on special grounds, and finally of those applying for ordinary leave preference was given to the Overseas Nursing Services.
After the 3rd week in March 1918, owing to the Military situation, few Sisters could be sent to Cannes which closed at the end of April, and many were disappointed. It re-opened again on November 1st, and already a considerable number of weeks before it was to be opened, applications were being received from members anxious not to be again disappointed this year and desirous of spending their leave at one of the Homes on the Riviera. At the beginning of March, on account of the number of applications for ordinary leave received, it was found necessary to make calculations as to the number of beds available until the Home closed, and leaving a small margin for recommendations on medical certificates, 50 of the more recent applications had to be returned, with a recommendation that they should be re-submitted for leave in the United Kingdom or Paris instead. This in spite of the fact that the beds for the Military Services this year had been increased by 20 will suffice to show the success of the scheme so generously undertaken by the B.R.C.S. The Sisters and V.A.D.’s derived much pleasure and benefit from their stay at the Hotel de l'Esterel, and they appreciated to the full all that was done for their comfort by Lady Gifford and her Assistant, whose kindness both at Hardelot and Cannes had won the gratitude of all their guests.
Lady Gifford came to France in October and November 1914, inspecting under the B.R.C.S., and from January 1915, (when the Home opened) until she left France in May 1919, she worked untiringly in the interests of the Nursing Services, personally waiting on the Sisters who were admitted to the Homes, and making all arrangements for their comfort. Miss Inglis acted as Lady Gifford’s Assistant from January 1915 to July 1918, when she obtained an appointment in the W.R.N.S. She was most popular with the Sisters for whom she worked most devotedly.
Mrs Seymour, Lady Gifford’s sister, spent periods from January 1915 to June 1917, on the staff at Hardelot, and from October 1918 until it closed she worked as Lady Gifford’s assistant at Cannes. She devoted herself most willingly to the management of this large establishment, and to the entertainment of the Sisters.
6c. VILLA CASA DE MARE
At the beginning of the winter season (1918) when the question of re-opening the Convalescent Homes for Nurses in the South was being considered, a proposal was made through Captain and Mrs. Warre by Mrs Angas to open a Villa on the Riviera, solely for the use of Dominion Sisters and V.A.D.’s.
Mrs Angas undertook, if her proposal were accepted to rent a villa expressly for this purpose.
After due consideration, and in view of the very large numbers who had applied for leave in the South in preceding years, it was decided to accept this lady’s very kind offer, and the necessary arrangements were made. It was decided that there would be accommodation for 18 Sisters.
On November 3rd 1918, Mrs Angas opened the Villa Casa del Mare, which is most beautifully situated at Cabbe Roquebrune and not far from the Villa Roquebrune. She engaged a competent staff of servants, and everything for the Sister’s comfort was provided. She also very kindly made arrangements with the British Red Cross Society for the use of an ambulance to take Sisters staying at the Villa Roquebrune from and to the station (and to and from the Villa Casa del Mare when necessary), and also to do the Mess shopping at Mentone for both Villas. The lady driver was accommodated at this villa.
The same advantages were granted to Mrs Angas by the Military Authorities as had already been granted to Mrs Warre, that is, coal, coke and rations were drawn from the Army Stores on repayment, and for any purposes of medical treatment, which might be required by the Nursing Staff, both these Homes were placed under the Medical Administration of the A.D.M.S. Marseilles.
The first party of Sisters was received on November 4th and from then until the Home closed on April 28th 1919, 156 Members of the Overseas Military Nursing Services and Voluntary Aid Detachments (including one Australian member of the R.A.M.C. attached to the Q.M.A.A.C.) had the privilege of spending periods of leave at this Villa.
The length of stay, as for the other Homes was usually 14 days, but there was one admission for a shorter period and in 5 cases, when it was considered that a longer rest would be beneficial, this was extended to three weeks. There was one case of a V.A.D. who proceeded on 14 days ordinary leave and developed pneumonia, thus necessitating a prolonged stay of one month and the services of a member of the Q.A.I.M.N.S.R. in attendance.
The total number of members of the Overseas Services and V.A.D.’s who enjoyed this privilege was 156.
The kindness and generosity of Mrs. Angas in placing this delightful Villa and grounds so completely at the disposal of the Nurses has been very much appreciated by the many Sisters and V.A.D.’s who have spent periods of leave there. By Mrs Angas’ express wish, Miss K. Payne Hodge, Q.A.I.M.N.S.R. Australia, was appointed Lady Superintendent, and she fulfilled her duties most successfully.
One felt most truly grateful for the pleasure of according to so many this leave free of all expense and spent in such luxurious surroundings.
E. M. McCarthy
Matron in Chief, Headquarters
British Troops in France and Flanders