Thursday, 12 November 2015

Woodlawn that Red Cross hospital in Didsbury reveals more of its story

Now it is fitting that I should be returning to the story of the Woodlawn Red Cross Hospital in Didsbury in the month that we remember the end of the Great War.*

It is a place that I do keep coming back to because for most of us these volunteer Red Cross hospitals which were in the heart of our community have largely been forgotten.**

Most were established in large private homes, Sunday schools or other public buildings, were funded largely with voluntary contributions and were staffed by local people who cared for the sick and wounded soldiers, worked in the canteen, washed the bedding and carried out the many administrative duties.

And when the war came to an end all the equipment from the hospital beds, and blankets to the typewriters and bedpans were auctioned off, the buildings returned to other uses and within a few generations these hospitals were all but forgotten.

A few like the college at Didsbury were pressed back into service in 1939 but most settled back into a more mundane existence.

All of which brings me back to Woodlawn’s because a few days ago I was offered some exciting information on the place including a short description of the work undertaken during its first full year of operation, the names of the staff and details of the number of hospitals and the men who were cared for there.

In time it will be possible to track staff members who came from Didsbury, but I think the first port of call will be the Red Cross data base of volunteers.***

I first came across it about a year ago and while it is not yet complete it will provide researchers, local historians and genealogists with a wealth of information.

It has helped me track down individuals who served in hospitals as far apart as Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Woolwich and Cheltenham and will do so again with Woodlawn’s.

But I also have the entry for the place from an account of the work of the East Lancashire Branch - An illustrated account of the work of the Branch during the first year of the war, 1916, published by the Red Cross.

I had already found information for one of the two hospitals in Chorlton in the book and now courtesy of the Red Cross archives I will be able to extend the story of Woodlawn’s.

As ever it is being able to put names and stories to this little bit of history and in that I am indebted again to the archivist for sharing this sheet with the names of many who went through Woodlawn’s made more poignant as each has been personally signed.

We will of course never know all the stories of the men and women who served at Woodlawn’s or of those who recovered from their wounds and illnesses but this is a start.

And is also a fitting point to remember that work of the Red Cross is still a vital part of the care of sick displaced peoples across the world.****

Pictures; of Wood Lawn courtesy of Rob Mellor, the embroidered sheet, courtesy of the Archives, British Red Cross 


*Red Cross Hospitals,

***First World War volunteers, The Red Cross,

****British Red Cross,

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