Stories of Exeter's War Hospitals, 1914-1919

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free - just drop in

St Stephen's Church - High Street, Exeter, EX4 3LW

19th - 23rd September 2017 from 11.00 to 16.00

Exhibition commemorating Exeter's involvement through the Red Cross in the care of sick and wounded soldiers during the First World War


During the First World War special ambulance trains arrived regularly at Exeter Queen Street Station (now Exeter Central Station). They brought wounded men from France and Flanders to be treated at the Exeter’s War Hospitals.

The Stories of Exeter’s War Hospitals, 1914-1919 exhibition, presented by Exeter Local History Society, commemorates and celebrates the magnificent work done in Exeter throughout the First World War to save lives and restore to health many of those injured and damaged by war.

The Red Cross opened its first two ‘temporary hospitals’ in Exeter in October 1914 in the West of England Eye Infirmary and the Episcopal Modern Girls School (later Bishop Blackall School) and by February 1915 had more beds available in Exeter than in any other provincial city.

By the end of the war over 35,000 patients had been treated in the eight hospitals, which were run by volunteer doctors, nurses and many other staff mainly drawn from the city and nearby villages and towns. The professional care provided by the staff, led by specialists who also worked at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, saved many lives.

Patients expressed their gratitude in the notes they left in the nurses’ autograph albums. ‘No need to worry as to who is going to win when we have such women in England!, wrote one.

Such an enterprise could not have succeeded without the help and support of hundreds of local people who raised funds, grew vegetables, made bandages, knitted socks, lent pianos or gramophones, collected eggs, picked sphagnum moss and put on concerts to entertain the wounded men.

The hospitals’ avowed intention was ‘to give to the men in the hospitals everything the public would wish their nearest and dearest to have’. Patients arriving from the front evidently appreciated the efforts made.

One patient described to the Devon and Exeter Gazette the impact made by the ‘spotless white tablecloths, clean cutlery, clean mugs, which reminded one of home, even to the flowers on the tables’ and contrasted it with the way in which a few days earlier he had been ‘eating with a jack-knife out of a mess-tin a weird pot-pourri compounded by company cooks who had attained an interesting stage in experimental chemistry.'

Exeter Local History Society and University of Exeter Honorary Research Fellow Dr Julia Neville present this exhibition to commemorate the magnificent contribution made by the people of Exeter and district to the care of the sick and wounded soldiers of the First World War.

Free event - all welcome


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