York Castle Museum

Community Room

Home Comforts: The Role of the Red Cross Auxiliary Hospitals in the North Riding of Yorkshire 1914 – 1919

Anne Wall and Eileen Brereton are trained nurses now retired. They have worked and volunteered for the British Red Cross and have spent over 12 years researching all the WW1 auxiliary hospitals in the North Riding area.

The latest Community Room display at York Castle Museum explores some of the findings from Anne and Eileen’s research. Anne says: “The inspiration for our project was the discovery of the original WW1 Report Book of the North Riding Branch of the British Red Cross.

“This gave details not only of the thirty two hospitals which had been created to care for convalescent soldiers, but also the names of the men and women who served in the British Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachments who were known as V.A.Ds.

“Their duties were to transport the wounded and ill soldiers to the hospitals, to nurse and cook for them , as well as to be involved in local fundraising to provide extra comforts and entertainment for the men in their care and those at the front.

“Most of the buildings willingly offered by their owners are still standing and we felt that it was important to recognise this valuable contribution that was made to the war effort especially during the current centenary commemorations of the war.

“With the help of the staff from the North Yorkshire County Record Office and a National Heritage Lottery fund grant we published a book and produced display materials which we use to share the stories when we give talks and hold exhibitions in the local community. Copies of our book were given to the buildings still in existence so they have a permanent record too for future generations.”


Lawrence Rowntree: An Exhibition by The Rowntree Society

Lawrence Edmund Rowntree, grandson of Joseph Rowntree, was born in York on 4 March 1895. He moved to Scalby, a village near Scarborough, as a young boy and attended Bootham School in York from 1907-1912. After school, he spent a year studying at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, which had links with Bootham and the Quaker community in the UK.

Lawrence entered King’s College Cambridge as a medical student in October 1913. In the summer of 1914, the outbreak of war would change Lawrence’s world dramatically.

Lawrence chose not to return to his medical studies but joined the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) in September 1914. The FAU eventually became a nation-wide organisation, but it was founded by alumni from Bootham School. It allowed young Quakers to contribute to the war effort without being directly involved in armed conflict.

After initial training in Buckinghamshire, Lawrence was part of the first group to be sent to France in October 1914. He kept a journal during his time in the FAU, which he entitled ‘A Nightmare in Three Acts’.

In March 1916, the Military Service Act was passed, which imposed conscription on all single men between the ages of 18 and 41. Lawrence did not go down the route of Conscientious Objection, as many of his fellow Quakers did.
Instead, Lawrence joined ‘C’ Company of what became known as the Tank Corps, and in August he arrived at the Somme with his crew. Their tank was called the Crème de Menthe.

Lawrence later joined the Royal Field Artillery as a lieutenant and, in late 1917, he was serving with 26th Army Brigade in the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) in Belgium.

He died in this battle on November 25, 1917, at the age of 22. He is buried at the New Military Cemetery in Vlamertinghe and his name occurs on the war memorial in Scalby, Scarborough.

Lawrence’s journal powerfully illustrates the mixed emotions caused by war. He was repulsed by the squalor and bloodshed, and utterly exhausted by several near-death experiences. ‘I wanted to die in some peaceful manner,’ he wrote. ‘Not because I was sick of life, but because the one thing I ached for more than anything else in the world was a little rest.’

But the sporty man-of-action was also thrilled by the dangers of war: ‘The excitement of it, even the fear is enticing; the glorious feeling when you overcome difficulties you thought were insuperable, and the jolly companionship of everyone which you get in the face of a common danger, and never so truly anywhere else.’

The exhibition will be open until the end of November 2017.