Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Photographs from the Royal Herbert during the Great War ............ a unique album of pictures

The Royal Herbert, date unknown
Now the story of the Royal Herbert has just got a lot more exciting and that has a lot to do with a fascinating photograph album from the Great War.

It belongs to my old friend David Harrop who has a unique collection of memorabilia covering both world wars as well as the history of the Post Office.

And today I am looking through it with the hope that some at least of the men and the nurses in the pictures can be traced and their stories uncovered.

Christmas Day, 1915
In time I might even be able to discover the nurse responsible for the album.

A few of the nurses are named and tantalizingly two pictures are captioned “myself” so the search is on which may be made easier as the Red Cross continues to add to its online data base of those who served during the Great War.

And then there are the large number of photographs of soldiers in their “hospital blues” recovering on the wards, a few party scenes and handful from soldiers who had recovered and left the hospital.

Summer, 1916
Together they help reveal a little bit of life in the Royal Herbert during 1915 and 1916.

Given the quality of the cameras and the age of the pictures some images have not fared so well but even the poorest have a story to tell.

One of my favourites is of Sister Thomson and a group of men on a ward on Christmas Day in 1915 along with a much faded image of the garden in the summer of 1916.

Now these albums were quite common but I suspect not that many have survived.

Album cover
David has two more which contain comments, poems and drawings of men recovering from wounds and illnesses.

One remains a mystery but the other comes from a Red Cross Hospital in Cheltenham and it has been possible to track  some of the men who made a contribution.

Their stories are as varied as I am sure will be the ones from the Herbert and include a young Canadian who survived the war and went home to live a successful and productive life and another who is buried in the military hospital outside Cairo.

And like all good stories led my friend Susan who lives in Canada to tell the story of that young Canadian and in so doing brought his drawing and his words  off the pages of the Cheltenham book and back from the past.

Now that I have to say was both exciting and moving.

The Royal Herbert album is different in that it only has photographs but in looking through it I have made a link with a hospital I knew well and which at one point in the 1970s treated our mother.

All of which makes it that bit special.

David's permanent exhibition can be seen in the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery, Manchester and currently features a collection of material commemorating the Manchester Blitz.

Pictures; from the Royal Hebert collection, 1915-16 courtesy of David Harrop

*Blighty, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Blighty

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