The previous article detailed the research into Violet Russell, a VAD nurse at the Red Cross Hospital, The Close, Winchester and her autograph book recording the names and sentiments of WW1 soldiers treated at the hospital. We have started to research the names of those who have signed Violet’s autograph book. In the table below, the entries in the autograph book are transcribed in full in the order in which they appear in the book. These original entries are in black and any additional information has been added in blue. Service and military records for British soldiers were checked on Ancestry, Fold 3 and Find My Past. The service records for the Canadian and Australian soldiers can be found on free-to-view websites here Personnel Records of the First World War – Library and Archives Canada (bac-lac.gc.ca) and here Name search | RecordSearch | National Archives of Australia (naa.gov.au).
This research has so far concentrated on the soldiers with service numbers and as these are more easily identified in the various on-line records. There is much more research to do on the other names, but we hope that this article will be of interest and will, perhaps, lead to useful links with other researchers. It is worth noting that many were wounded in the late summer of 1917 – most likely in the 3rd Battle of Ypres – and in the German advance of early 1918.
The autograph book also reminds us of the service of those who served in the First World War and survived it. The men who signed this book were all in hospital for medical treatment for illnesses and wounds received in battle. Some were wounded several times, some were discharged early from military service because of their wounds, two lost limbs, a couple are noted as suffering from ‘shell-shock’ (described as Neurasthenia in the records we have consulted), and some have illnesses brought on by exposure and living in crowded conditions outdoors or under canvas. Most of the wounds are described as gun-shot wounds or shrapnel wounds, and there are references to gas shells.
The table below gives the summary details on each soldier. Then follows a little more information on some of the men. The British soldiers are covered first, then the Australian and Canadian soldiers.
|G Kirby||Private||2nd Hants Regt||Came to the Close 5 March 1917; entry written 12 August 1917||Thanking Nurse Russell for her kindness to me during my short stay at the Close
Quite a short stay
And still here (swinging the lead) 3 March 1918
|W Stainton||Corporal||17 Sherwood Foresters||Admitted 10 August 1917||Thanking Nurse Russell for her kindness to me while in Hospital|
|E Baston||Driver||Royal Field Artillery, 51st Highland Division||Admitted 8 August 1917||Thanking Nurse Russell for kind attention and treatment whilst a patient at the Close Hospital|
|J Sweeney||Sergeant||72nd Seaforth Highlanders||From Vancouver, Canada
Many thanks to Nurse Russell for her kind attention and treatment whilst a patient at the Close Hospital
|Private||Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers||69622||19 February 1918||May your shadow never grow less
From Milford in Co. Armagh, married to Minnie
|Sergeant||A Company, 7th Battalion The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
|13562||Born 1888, married Emma Barton in 1911. From Dover in Kent. Enlisted 16 April 1908. Gun shot wound to right leg 3 May 1917, then gun shot wound to left hand 12 October 1917, and another gun shot wound to legs 26 August 1918.To the Red Cross Hospital Winchester 30 August 1918. Demobilised 13 February 1919. Awarded the Military Medal|
|Private||45th Battalion AIF
Australian Imperial Force
|784||25 August 1917||Wishing Nurse Russell the best of luck for her kindness to me in Hospital
Born in Gloucestershire. Enlisted September 1914 and served in Gallipoli. Wounded May 1915 and in 1917. Awarded Military Medal for ‘bravery in the field’ during Battle of Messines
|W Murray||2nd Battalion Inniskilling Fusiliers||I thank Nurse Russell ever so much for her kind attention and treatment during my stay at the Close|
|FEC Gardner||Sergeant||Royal Engineers||6 August 1917||With all good wishes|
|1/8th Irish KLR
Kings Liverpool Regiment
|5 August 1917||Wounded at Ypres 31 July 1917
|Private||Machine Gun Corps||102516||5 September 1917
|Wounded at Ypres 29 July 1917
With all best wishes
Born in 1883, married Ellen Poulson in 1917. From Wandsworth. Enlisted 7 February 1916. Gun shot wound to right thigh 29 July 1917. Discharged 17 December 1917. Disabled as a result of his service. Died 25 January 1919
|George Sharpe||Private||1/4th Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry||202695
|5 September 1917
|Wounded by gas at Neuport 22 July 1917.
The Close, A Home from Home
Born 1897. From Dewsbury in Yorkshire. Enlisted 6 September 1916. Wounded by a gas shell on 22 July 1917. Demobilised 7 July 1919
Royal Warwickshire Regiment
|Wounded at Ypres 31 July 1917
With best wishes and a bright future
Born 1899. From Kenilworth in Warwickshire. Enlisted 27 May 1916. Gun shot wound to right shoulder 31 July 1917. Discharged from service 16 April 1918
|Herbert Renton||Private||17th Royal Welsh Fusiliers||267239||Wounded at Ypres 31 July 1917
Best wishes for the future
Born 1894. From Salford in Manchester. Enlisted 11 December 1915. Gun shot wound to right ankle 31 July 1917. Treated at the Central Military Hospital Winchester 8 August 1917 and assessed by a Medical Board at Winchester 22 October 1917.
Discharged as medically unfit 12 November 1917
|11th RWK (Royal West Kent Regiment)
Military Foot Police
|Wounded at Holibuch 31 July 1917
Born 1898. From Maidstone in Kent. Enlisted 24 January 1916. Gun shot wound to left thigh 31 July 1917. Admitted to the hospital in Winchester 10 August 1917. Transferred to the Military Police 18 May 1918. Discharged from service 23 April 1919
|Private||8th Canadians||830127||Wooded at Loos
Born in Minnesota in 1895. Enlisted 18 December 1915. Wounded 28 July 1917. Treated at the hospital in Winchester August to September 1917. Returns to Canada in January 1918
|HS Hicks||London Scottish||10 January 1918|
|H Harland||Royal Garrison Artillery||7 February 1918|
|Fabian Williams||7 February 1918|
|Private||1st North Staffs
3rd North Staffordshire Regiment
|8780||Wounded at Ypres
Many thanks for the kindness of Nurse Russell while I was in the Close Hospital
Born in 1891. From Normancot near Stoke-on-Trent. Enlisted 1 September 1914. Treated for frost bite in January 1916, then for a gun shot wound to the foot in August 1917. Demobilised 16 February 1919
|E Benham||Private||1st Wilts Regiment|
|L Ingram||Private||1st Worcesters||When I spilt all my soup on my trousers,
It left such a horrible stain,
I was told the marks would vanish,
If I left my pants out in the rain.
So the first rainy evening I left them,
In a garden on top of some plants,
In the morning the stains had all vanished,
By thunder! And so had my pants!
|Private||1st KSR, C Company
1st North Staffordshire Regiment
|Wounded 11 March 1917
|Born 1897. From Hilderstone in Staffordshire. Enlisted 28 August 1916. Gun shot wound to left arm 11 March 1917. Discharged from service 3 May 1919
|Royal Horse Artillery
|With all good wishes
Born 1874, married Sarah Forrest in 1899, 5 children. From the NE of England. Enlisted 29 August 1914. Transferred to the Labour Corps in October 1917. Treated for heart problems in 1917 and 1918. Discharged from service 25 February 1918. Died 11 March 1927
|Private||A Company, 39th Battalion Australian Imperial Forces||6779||4 November 1917||Wounded at Broodseinde Ridge, Ypres 4 October 1917
He’s out there somewhere,
Where the bushman carries his swag,
Hopping around the station,
With his empty tucker bag.
Enlisted March 1916. Served in France from June 1917. Wounded July 1917 and October 1917
|John Hayes||Private||1st Gordon Highlanders||Wounded 1 September 1918, left leg||I always think of you as I sleep then I begin to clap my feet if you care to have a talk with me then we shall go for a walk|
|Private||C Company, 17th Battalion Australian Imperial Forces||4779||All men were born alike
From this and every nation
The rich among the poor would be
But for wealth and education
So when we’re laid beneath the sod
With a hundred years to back it
Where is the one who can tell of him
Who wore the ragged jacket
Enlisted January 1916. A draper’s assistant. Sent overseas September 1916. Treated at the hospital in Winchester in December 1917 and discharged soon after
|SS Wilkinson||Northants Yeomanry||24 August 1918||I’ll go one said Austria
I’ll go two said France
I’ll go three said Russia, because I’ve got the chance
I’ll go Four said German and wipe you off the map
But they all dropped dead when Britain said Gawd Blimey! I’ll go Nap
PS. He’s after his ticket by swinging his leg
|F Dobson||Private||6th NF (Northumberland Fusiliers)||May you never live to want
Many you never want as long as you live
|Driver||41 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery||68712||From Margate
Here is to the Sisters so kind and true
Here is to the Nurses the duty they do
And if I am not wrong by asking today
To do you a kindness in return some way
For the kindness you have shown me I shall never forget
For the Doctor as well is one of the best
Born 1882. From Margate in Kent, a builder’s labourer. Enlisted 13 January 1915. Fractured fibula as the result of an accident, 5 December 1917. Discharged from service 4 April 1918 as medically unfit for service
|Private||2/2 London RF
2nd London Regiment, 2nd Bn Royal Fusiliers
|From Bedfordshire. Enlisted 9 September 1914 and served initially with the Bedfordshire Regiment from August 1915 to August 1917 in Egypt and France. He transferred to the London Regiment 20 August 1917 and was wounded whilst serving with them on 21 September 1917. Discharged from service due to his wounds on 28 February 1918|
|Private||2/6 West Riding Regiment||24833||2 January to 29 February
|Born 1882. From Idle near Bradford. Enlisted 8 August 1916.
Gun shot wound to right forearm 16 April 1917. Discharged from service 31 May 1918
|DCM Bagley||Private||1st 60 Rifles||Here’s to the happiest days of my life spent in the arms of another mans wife (my mother)|
288th A Troop
|170191||Discharged 2 November 1918
|Thanking Nurse Russell for her kindness during my stay at the Close
Born 1878, from Yeovil in Somerset. Enlisted 22 May 1916. Discharged from service 2 November 1918
|Private||846 Area Employment Co
|I am getting old and very near done
I have done my share and help defeat the Hun
Now my sons have gone to take my place
I feel quite proud of England’s race
Born 1877. From Cardiff. Married Harriet Traverse in 1895, two children. Enlisted 16 March 1915 with the Welsh Regiment. Transferred to Cheshire Regiment in March 1916 and then to the Labour Corps in May 1917. Treated for bronchitis May 1918 and appeared before a medical board at Winchester in August 1918. Discharged from service 2 September 1918
|H Walmlate||Lance Corporal||25th Royal Fusiliers Frontiersmen East Africa|
|Lance Corporal||1st Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry
12th Manchester Regiment
|Very Best Wishes
Born 1897. From Manchester. Enlisted 21 April 1915.
Gun shot wound to the left hand 26 August 1918. Discharged from service 20 December 1918
|P Mills||Rifleman||1st Rifle Brigade|
|Lance Corporal||7th (Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry) Border Regiment
|22 October 1918
|Wounded 25 August
It’s a long land that has no turning
Thanking Nurse Russell for her kindness during my stay in the Close
Born 1898. From the Isle of Man. Enlisted 28 August 1916 with the Liverpool Regiment. Transferred to the Border Regiment in May 1917. Gun shot wounds to left arm, left side and back 25 August 1918. Treated at the Winchester VAD Hospital 30 August 1918 to 20 January 1919. Demobilised 24 February 1919
|JWA Milner||Sergeant||Royal Field Artillery||I have a friend, a dear, good friend
A loyal friend, and kind,
And when I count my blessings up
That friend is in my mind;
I often wish within my heart,
That I might ever be
As good a friend to that true friend,
As is that friend to me
|Bugler||5th Durham Light Infantry||204083||Wounded at Koyo 28 March 1918||Many thanks to Nurse Russell for looking after me in the Hut
Born 1898. From Dawdon near Seaham, County Durham. Enlisted 23 July 1915. Wounded 28 March 1918. Discharged 11 July 1919.
|3rd Kings Own Hussars||21425||Born 1891. From Bournemouth. Worked as an electrician|
|Many thanks to Nurse Russell for her kindness at the Close Hospital|
|Private||13th Battalion Australian Imperial Forces||2226||4 February 1918||Born in Sydney. Enlisted March 1916. Served overseas from January 1917. At the Winchester hospital from December 1917. Returned to Australia in April 1918|
|Private||Bedford Regiment||60950||22 October 1918||From Hillmorton near Rugby, Warwickshire
With best wishes to Nurse Russell
Born 1894. Enlisted 17 November 1915. Mobilised 25 April 1918. Wound to left hand September 1918 – later amputated. Discharged from service 10 July 1919. Married Winifred McLeod in February 1918
|Edd Gore||Private||22 October 1918||Heres to the girl I love and wish she was mine if soldiering would bring her near I would soldier all the time|
|Private||Machine Gun Corps, 195 Com, 25 Div.||102516||2 November 1917||Wounded at Ypres 29 July 1917 [see earlier entry]
Poem called Fortunes of War
Many thanks to Nurse Russell during my stay at the Close
See earlier entry
|G Redhead||2nd Private||RAF||I looked these pages o’er and o’er
To see what others wrote before
And in this little lonely spot
I’ll inscribe forget me not
|T Osborne||Private||26 Northumberland Fusiliers||Thanking Nurse Russell for her kind and attention to me during my stay at the Close. With best wishes|
|Gunner||162 Royal Field Artillery||21896||With best thanks to all for kindness and attention, with best wishes
Born 1892. From Camberwell. Worked as a chemist’s assistant. Enlisted 18 April 1915 and served in France. Wounded by a gas shell 24 September 1918. Discharged as medically unfit 21 January 1919. Died 25 October 1964, left a widow called Rose
|Gunner||v/iv HTMB [heavy trench mortar battery], Royal Field Artillery||43843||17 July 1918||Discharged in March 1920. Medals awarded in 1921 after a case of mistaken identity in which he was erroneously accused of desertion|
|Private||4th RR Berks
Royal Berkshire Regiment
Later Army Service Corps
|41684||25 August 1918||Pussy cat Pussy cat where have you been
Telling those dreadful crams
The Winchester people are longing to sea
Their new electrick trams
From Devonport. Discharged from service 19 September 1918
|Private||17th Battalion Australian Imperial Force||Enlisted in July 1916, 18 years old. Served in France from September 1917, wounded 8 August 1918 and again on 2 October 1918. Admitted to the Winchester hospital on 15 March 1918. Returned to Australia March 1919|
|Sapper||Royal Engineers||494411||24 July 1918||Thanking Nurse Russell for her kindness whilst in Hospital in the Close
If I know you and you know me
If both of us could clearly see
And with inner sight divine
The meaning of your heart and mine
I think in love not the less
I clasp our hands in blindness
Our thoughts would pleasantly agree
If know you and you know me
Born in 1889. From Bristol. Enlisted 17 December 1914. Wounded 15 June 1918 and a patient at the Winchester hospital from 19 June to 29 August 1918. Demobilised 17 April 1919
|6th Cheshires||25 July 1918||The rain falls on the just,
And on the unjust fella,
But more upon the just,
Because the unjust’s got the just’s umbrella
|J Massee||Private||2nd 10th Londons||24 July 1918||Once a sport, always a sport. Oh! La-la, la-la!
Thanks to Nurse Russell for all the kindnesses shown during my stay at the Close
|Gunner||Royal Garrison Artillery||115994||15 August 1918||Avington Park Camp, Winchester
Thanking you for your kindness during my stay at The Close
Born 1889. From Hastings. Enlisted 21 February 1916. Served overseas. Discharged 24 October 1918
|JF BattenJohn Francis||Private||46th Battalion Australian Imperial Force||First God made man
Then he made women
Then he felt sorry for the man
And made tobacco
Enlisted in December 1917 at the age of 18. Left Australia February 1918 and served in France from July 1918. Wounded 18 September and was at the Winchester hospital until November 1918
|Lance Corporal||7th Royal West Kent Regt||10792||10 September 1918||With all good wishes
Born 1896. From Brookwood in Surrey. Enlisted 25 May 1915. Wounded leg, shoulder and forehead 14 October 1916. Wounded again 26 April 1918. Discharged 22 February 1919.
|Rifleman||6th Battalion Rifle Brigade||44856||28 January 1919||Thanking Nurse Russell for her great kindness to me during my stay at the Close
Born 1898. From Poplar in London, a general labourer who worked at Bell Wharf. Discharged 28 November 1919
|28458||Born 1898. From Leicester. Treated for heart problems and Neurasthenia (shell-shock). Discharged 27 January 1919 and received a pension from 1919 to 1930|
William Hugh Stewart
|Gunner||Royal Garrison Artillery||318799||22 August 1918||Good bye sisters and nurses to,
For services rendered I pay homage to you.
To you a kindness I hope to return some day,
For the kindness shown me I shall ne’er forget,
The doctor to is one of the best,
And I shall leave the Close with the deepest regret
To Nurse Russell for services rendered. Wishing you the best of luck
Born 1892. From Highbury in London. Enlisted 31 May 1915. Served overseas and wounded 7 January 1918. Discharged 10 September 1918.
|J Harrison||Rifleman||1st Kings Royal Rifle Corps||24 October 1918||Little bits of bayonets,
Little bursts of shell,
Puts the wind up Mr Fritz,
And makes him run like ‘L’
|J Hayes||Private||Army Veterinary Corps||31639||Thank you for the kind looking and taken of me|
|‘baby Jim’||Army Veterinary Corps||32477||Many thanks for your kindness to Baby Jim can I have some milk please|
|PM Loughlin||Private||RFC||Admitted 1 September||Wounded 29 August|
|Private||Army Service Corps
|262899||I thank you very much for your kindness in the way you have look after me
From Morley in Yorkshire. Enlisted 6 October 1916. In hospital with influenza July 1918 and then again with a hernia in September 1918. At the hospital in Winchester from 30 September to 15 November 1918. Served at the Remount Depot in Romsey – no overseas service. Discharged 23 October 1919
George Frederick Windebanks
|Sergeant||605 Agric Coy
|I thank you very much for your kindness in the way you look after me. Good luck
Appears to have been a regular soldier before the war. Deployed to Gallipoli 8 May 1915. Continued as a soldier after the war
|Private||Royal Army Medical Corps||508598||Meet tonight in dreamland
Born 1891. From Enfield in North London. Enlisted 3 June 1915 with the 6th City of London Rifles (service number 4364 and 321842). Wounded 21 May 1917 at the Battle of Bullecourt. Treated for nephritis August 1917. Transferred to the RAMC 5 February 1918, treated at the Winchester hospital Oct-Nov 1918, and served with the RAMC until his discharge on 11 August 1919. Awarded the Military Medal
|CH Simmonds||Gunner||Royal Garrison Artillery||Gassed at Ypres 12 September 1917
With all good wishes to Nurse Russell
|Private||D Coy 50th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force||5133||The Close. Home from Home
Enlisted January 1916 at the age of 27. In France from April 1918. Admitted to the Winchester hospital with bronchitis October 1918
Also served with other units – Wiltshire Regiment and the Labour Corps (other service numbers are 25883, 12766, 286519)
|42482||Thanking Nurse Russell for all her kindness to me while in hospital
God made Bees
Bees make Honey
The Infantry do the work
And the R.E get the money
Born 1886 in Poole. Married Lucy Delaney in 1906. Worked as a boot repairer. Enlisted 12 December 1915. Did not serve overseas. Treated for tuberculosis. Discharged 7 March 1919
Kings Royal Rifles
|125 Beaufoy Road, Lavender Hill, London|
|Private||5th Battalion Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 62nd Div
1/5th Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
|Admitted 29 July 1918||Gassed 10 July 1917, wounded 20 July 1918
Thanking Nurse Russell for her kind attention received whilst in the Close. With best wishes and Happiness
‘never fought and never been defeated (what hopes)’.
Born 1898. From Sheffield. Enlisted 10 December 1915. Wounded in both legs 20 July 1918 at Chalons in France Demobilised 22 February 1919. From Sheffield
|J Hobin||Private||1st East Lancs,||Discharged 8 August 1918||There are many ways and many words in which I could address you but what is better than this phrase straight from my heart God Bless You|
|Wood||Sergeant||7th Buffs||Discharged 8 August 1918||Here’s to Nurse Russell and All the Staff. May happiness guide them through life’s path. Actions speak lounder than words
Thanking Nurse Russell for her kindness to me and every attention given
|G Bird||Private||1 August 1918|
|William Selfridge||Private||12 Highland Light Infantry, 15th Scottish Division
Royal Army Medical Corps
|6 August 1917||Though only a private and not a grand duke
I am determined to have the last page in this book
Born 1886. From Low Waters in Hamilton, Scotland. Married Catherine Nugent 1909. Enlisted 10 September 1914. Wounded in the chest 30 June 1917. Demobilised 23 July 1918
John James Burden was from Somerset. He enlisted in 1916 at the age of 36 – he was a shoeing smith. He served with the Royal Engineers and was eventually discharged from service because of his wounds in November 1918. He was given a small pension and a grant of money which he used to set himself up as a poultry farmer.
John Burridge was from Cardiff and enlisted at Abergavenny in March 1915. He was about the same age as Burden. He served initially with the Welsh Regiment at home and in France but was transferred to the Labour Corps in 1917. Working and living outside would appear to have affected John’s heath as he was treated in hospital for bronchitis from May to August 1918 and was soon after discharged from military service as medically unfit. John was a bricklayer before the war. He was married to Harriet, and they had two sons – Thomas born in 1901 and Walter in 1904. The comment made on his attestation record was that he looked ‘over the declared age’.
Sedley James Collins has two entries in the book. He was a miller from Wandsworth who enlisted in February 1916 at the age of 33. He served in the Machine Gun Corps and was mobilised in March 1917. He was wounded in the thigh on 27 July 1917 and the wound must have been a severe one because he was discharged from service as a result. He died in January 1919.
Alfred Costain was born in 1898 and was a boot repairer from the Isle of Man. He enlisted in February 1916 and served in the Border Regiment. He served in England from April 1916 to April1917 and was then in France until August 1918. Alfred had various spells in hospital for the treatment of scabies, impetigo, and a couple of sprains. He was wounded in the arm, side and back in August 1918. That was the end of his service. He was awarded a disability pension and found work at a holiday camp after the war.
Cecil Diplock was from Maidstone in Kent and was 18 years old when he enlisted in January 1916. He served with the BEF from December 1916 to August 1917 and was wounded in action at the end of July 1917. He evidently recovered sufficiently to continue his service with the Military Police. Cecil was discharged from service as medically unfit in April 1919.
William Farrier had the longest military career of those we have researched so far. He was born in 1888 and came from Dover in Kent. He served in the volunteer battalion of the Buffs from 1906 and was then mobilised when war broke out in August 1914. His regiment served in India and Aden from 1914 to 1916 and it is only from December 1916 that William saw service in Europe. He was wounded three times between May 1917 and August 1918 and was eventually demobilised in February 1919. William was awarded the Military Medal for ‘bravery in the field’.
Jack Gardiner was a barman from Brookwood in Surrey. He enlisted at Kilburn in May 1915 and served at home for just over a year, then again from November 1916 to May 1917, and again from May 1918 to February 1919. He served in France twice – July to November 1916 and June 1916 to May 1918 and was wounded on each occasion. A medical board assessed him in November 1918 and considered Jack to have a 70% disablement and he was therefore granted a pension.
Arthur Hartley was a Baptist from Yorkshire who worked in a woollen mill. He enlisted at Pontefract and was found to have poor eyesight. He served at a Remount depot in Romsey throughout the war had spells in hospital at Romsey and Winchester for influenza and a hernia.
Leopold Ingram was born in Kenilworth in 1899 and he enlisted in May 1916. He served with Worcestershire Regiment and then the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and was wounded in the shoulder on 31 July 1917. This was evidently a serious wound as Leopold was still considered as having a 40% level of disablement in 1920. He was discharged from service in April 1918.
George Pegg was from Staffordshire. He was born in 1891 and worked in the potteries. He enlisted on 1 September 1914 and served with the North Staffordshire Regiment in the Balkans and then in France. This included service in Gallipoli and a bout of frostbite caused by exposure whilst encamped at Suvla Bay. He was wounded again in August 1917 whilst serving on the Western Front and was only discharged from hospital in February 1918. George survived 4 years and 169 days of military service and was demobbed in January 1919.
Gilbert Rainbow was a groom from Rugby. He enlisted in 1915 and was wounded in the hand in October 1918. This wound sadly led to the amputation of part of his arm and Gilbert was awarded a life pension on his discharge from service. He evidently recovered well because the 1939 Register records that he was working as a tool fitter.
Frank Rook was from Enfield and was a tea warehouseman. He enlisted in June 1916 and had several spells in hospital – for bronchitis in November 1916 and influenza in October and November 1918. In 1917, he was in hospital in Dorchester for a month suffering from a kidney infection caused by ‘exposure’. This came soon after he was discharged from hospital after treatment for a chest wound received in action at Bullecourt in May 1917. Frank was awarded the Military Medal in July 1917.
William Selfridge was a coal miner from Scotland who enlisted in September 1914. He was wounded at Ypres in June 1917 and the discharged as medically unfit the following summer. William received a disability pension from 1919 until 1923 when he emigrated to America. His wife and daughter followed him to New York in 1924.
George Sharpe was a rag worker from Dewsbury in Yorkshire and was 18 years old when he enlisted in September 1916. He served in France and was gassed in July 1917. This is what brought him to the hospital in Winchester. George returned to service and was demobilised in the summer of 1919. He evidently wasn’t a well man because he was still in receipt of a disablement pension in 1924.
Horace Short was a milk or cow man from Sheffield who was wounded in both legs during an action at Chalons in July 1918. Horace spent a month in hospital in France and then another four months in the Red Cross Hospital in Winchester, no doubt recovering from the operation he’d had to remove shrapnel from his legs. He had already spent a few spells in hospital for impetigo and trench fever. The leg injuries qualified Horace for a pension, but he also returned to work – the 1921 census states that he was working as a general labourer.
Herbert Warburton sticks out literally from the crowd – he is the tallest man we have researched. Herbert was 6ft tall and worked as a painter. Like Horace Short, he was treated for both trench fever and a wound to his leg. He was treated at the Winchester hospital for three months over the summer of 1918.
James Weir from County Durham is one of the youngest soldiers we have researched. His service record shows that he was often in trouble for a variety of petty misdemeanours. He enlisted in July 1915 and only serves abroad from February 1918. James was wounded in the shoulder and leg in March 1918, wounds which gave him a disability pension through to 1925.
The final British soldier we have looked at so far is Ambrose Townsley. He was from the North East of England and was born in 1874. He enlisted right at the start of the war with the Royal Horse Artillery from the Army Reserves having previously served in the Second Boer War with that regiment. He was therefore involved in the fighting from early October 1914 through to February 1915, service which qualified him for the Mons Star and Ribbon. His service on the Western Front continued through 1915 and was then interrupted by a spell in prison in 1916 for bigamy (Ambrose had several serious brushes with the law before the war and spent time in prison as a result). He continued his military service from February 1917, transferring to the Labour Corps in October 1917, and ended up in hospital with heart problems later that year. Ambrose was finally discharged from service as medically unfit in February 1918. He died in 1927.
There is one Canadian soldier, Ingval Lee. He was born in Minnesota in 1895, the son of John and Clara Lee. He worked as a farmer before he enlisted at Winnipeg on 18 December 1915. Ingval sailed from Halifax in September 1916 and served with the 8th Canadians – also known as the Winnipeg Rifles. His service records do not give details of exactly where he served but Ingval was reported as dangerously wounded on 28 July 1917 at Lens on the Ypres Salient. He suffered concussion, a contusion to the chest and gunshot wounds to his right leg. Ingval initially spent a month in hospital in Rouen and was then shipped back across the Channel at the end of August 1917 for further treatment. He was a patient at the Red Cross Hospital in Winchester from 29 August until 20 September. Then followed time at the Canadian Convalescent Hospital in Wokingham and Ingval was eventually send home to Canada in January 1918 – he was discharged as medically unfit for service on 22 March 1918.
Seven Australian soldiers have signed Violet’s autograph book. They are:
- Edward Morgan, A Company, 39th Battalion Australian Imperial Force (AIF)
- Charles Smart, 45th Battalion AIF
- Joseph Patrick Johnson, 50th Battalion, AIF
- William James Robertson, 13th Battalion AIF
- Frederick Reginald Sells, 17th Battalion AIF
- John Edward Miller, 17th Battalion AIF
- John Francis Batten, 46th Battalion AIF
The youngest were Batten and Sells. Batten came from Johnstoneville in Victoria and was a surveyor’s assistant. He enlisted in December 1917 and left Australia in February 1918 to serve with the 17th Battalion Australian Imperial Force. His unit was sent to France in July 1918 and Batten came down with measles a month later. He was wounded on 18 September, shot in the arm and the foot, mostly likely in the fighting around the Hindenburg Line. He was sent to the Red Cross Hospital in Winchester in late September 1918, was discharged on 21 November and then left the UK to return to Australia at Christmastime.
Fred Sells was a labourer from Bourke in New South Wales. He enlisted in July 1916 and left Sydney for the UK in November 1916. He was in France by September 1917 with the 17th Battalion Australian Imperial Force and was wounded in August 1918. This must have been a slight wound as he re-joined his regiment in mid-September, but, on 2 October, he was wounded in the leg, probably during fighting around the Hindenburg Line. Fred was sent to the Red Cross Hospital in Winchester on 15 October 1918 and returned to Australia at the end of March 1919, discharged as medically unfit for service.
William Robertson was a fencer from Sydney and was 28 years old when he enlisted in March 1916. He arrived in France in January 1917 and served with the 13th Australian Imperial Force. William’s service records reveal that he was sick on and off throughout 1917 – his unit was serving in Belgium in the advance on the Hindenburg Line. He was admitted to the Red Cross in Winchester on 7 December 1917 suffering with sciatica. He was there for just two months and then returned to Australia in April 1918 where he was discharged as medically unfit – neurasthenia (shell-shock) was given as the reason.
John Miller was from Sunny Hills in Sydney and enlisted in January 1916 at the age of 32. He was a draper’s assistant and was sent overseas in September 1916 with the 17th Battalion Australian Imperial Force. He was plagued with sickness and was admitted to the Red Cross Hospital in Winchester on 7 December 1917 with a hernia and was quite quickly sent back to Australia where he was discharged as medically unfit for service in July 1918.
Joseph Johnson’s service was similar. Aged 27 when he enlisted in January 1916, Joseph arrived in the UK in February 1918 after a journey from Adelaide which included stops at Egypt, Alexandria, Italy and France. He served with the 50th Battalion Australian Imperial Force and was most likely in action at Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918. Joseph was admitted to the Winchester Red Cross Hospital on 15 October 1918 suffering from bronchitis and then returned to Australia two months later where he was discharged as medically unfit.
Edward Morgan was born in Queensland and enlisted in March 1916 in Melbourne at the age of 27. He was a hairdresser. He served with the 39th Australian Imperial Force and arrived in France in June 1917 and was wounded the following month. After two weeks of treatment and recuperation, he rejoined his regiment on 27 July. He was wounded again, this time in the foot, on 4 October 1917, in the battle at Broodseinde Ridge near Ypres and was admitted to the Red Cross Hospital in Winchester on 16 October. Then followed treatment at a hospital in Harefield before Edward returned to Australia in the late summer of 1918.
Charles Smart is perhaps the most interesting of the Australian soldiers. He was born in Gloucestershire – we don’t know when he emigrated to Australia – and enlisted at Rosebery Park in New South Wales in September 1914 at the age of 22. He was a labourer. Charles was part of the 13th Australian Imperial Force who landed in Gallipoli in late April 1915. He was wounded in the shoulder on 7 May 1915 and was evacuated to hospital. Charles then re-joined his unit in February 1916 when it was amalgamated with newly enlisted troops to form the 45th Battalion AIF in March 1916. The 45th were sent to France soon after and Charles had a run of various illnesses between November 1916 and the early summer of 1917 – malaria, bronchitis, pleurisy, scabies, and swollen ankles. He was wounded again on 5 July 1917, this time during fighting at Ploegstrete, a bad shrapnel wound to his thigh. He was admitted to the Red Cross Hospital in Winchester on 9 July and was then moved to another hospital in late August before being sent back to Australia in October 1917. He was discharged from service on the grounds of ill health in June 1918. Charles was awarded the Military Medal for ‘bravery in the field’ on 7 June 1917 during the Battle of Messines.
We hope the detail in this autograph book and the research we have undertaken on some of the soldiers has been of interest to readers. There are more names to research and we would welcome more information on any of these men.
Authors: Suzanne Foster and Patrick Craze
Suzanne researched the Canadian and Australian soldiers and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick researched the British soldiers and can be contacted at email@example.com