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Blackburn, in common with the rest of the nation, was deeply concerned by the momentous events of early August 1914. The major nations were mobilising their forces and scenes in Blackburn were likened to those witnessed in the days preceding Waterloo. Sunday the 2nd August was a day of suspense. From morning to night, crowds gathered outside newspaper offices waiting for the posting of telegrams. That the Cabinet was sitting on a Sunday indicated the gravity of the situation. In the churches there were prayers for peace. War was declared on the evening of August 4th.
 
As a result of the outbreak of War, there was a rise in food prices and housewives began stockpiling provisions, in case of future shortages. Parliament rushed through an emergency Act which enforced the closure of banks until Friday 7th August. This was to allay any financial difficulties caused by a temporary shortage of gold.
 
Blackburn's holidays which had begun the previous Friday were spoiled. Railway companies stopped running excursions. People cancelled their holidays in order to conserve their resources.
 
Mobilization of local troops began. Blackburn Territorial’s who formed the 4th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment assembled at their headquarters on Canterbury Street. Billets were provided at schools close by until August 19th when the 4th and 5th Battalions (the 5th being based in Burnley) marched to Bury where they were based at Chesham Fold Camp.
 
 
Blackburn and Darwen in the Spanish flu pandemic
 
In recent years concern has grown over the threat to human health posed by bird flu, especially the H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus and after the most recent outbreak in Suffolk newspapers featuring pictures of dead birds also carried references to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919.
 
This pandemic killed killed at least 50 million people in a little over a year (WWI itself killed 15 million people) and yet, until recently we knew very little about the cause of this terrible event.
 
So what was the great flu pandemic and how did it affect the people of Blackburn and Darwen?
 
Recent investigation of preserved tissue samples from its victims have shown that it was caused by an unusually severe and deadly strain of the H1N1 form of influenza. The whole world, from the north to the south poles was affected, apart from some isolated islands in the Pacific Ocean. The pandemic lasted from March 1918, when the first outbreaks were reported in an American military camp, to May 1919.
 
However, it is well known that it is very difficult for humans to catch bird flu so what changed to make this form so easy to catch and so virulent? Unfortunately, Britain or, more accurately, a British Army Base in France during WWI may well be to blame.
 
In 1916 four soldiers died in the British military hospital at Etaples in France. The men had flu-like symptoms but the cause of death was given as pneumonia. However, it was noticed that their faces had turned a peculiar blueish-grey colour before they died.
 
It is likely that these unfortunate soldiers were victims of an early form of the virus but why did it startin Etaples? Etaples was a vast military camp with a population of 100,000 men. They needed to be fed and the camp had a farm with chickens and pigs. These crowded conditions were ideal for the virus to evolve, possibly using the pigs as intermediary hosts, from the 1916 form, which was deadly but difficult to catch, into the 1918 form that was both deadly and easy to catch.
 
In the middle of a war, with vast numbers of soldiers and civilians moving around the globe, the virus spread rapidly and the first outbreak in March 1918 began in Fort Riley, Kansas, when a soldier reported sick complaining of a fever, sore throat and a headache. He was followed by another solider and by the end of the day; the Army Hospital had a total of 100 patients complaining about similar symptoms. By the end of the week, there were over 500 of them.
 
The virus would have reached Britain carried by a soldier returning home on leave. It reached Blackburn in May 1918.
In this first outbreak the number of deaths due to the ‘three day fever’ was low and the newspaper reported “While there are many cases in Blackburn the town is not suffering apparently so severely as some other centres.” Nevertheless, on 30th June seven members of the borough’s police force reported sick (next day the number rose to sixteen) and the wife of a local J.P. was struck down; taken ill on a Friday, by Sunday Mrs Peel was dead. The newspapers carried daily reports of the outbreak but it wasn’t until mid July that the local area was badly hit. The Hoddlesden pipe works was forced to close and mill owners in Darwen reported hundreds of workers sick; supplies of medicines began to run out at chemists and suddenly the death notices in the newspapers were of young people as, unusually,  most of its victims were aged 25-40.
 
From then on the disease spread rapidly, closing St Anne’s, St Luke’s and Emmanuel schools as well as Sunday Schools. There was nothing doctors could do and the newspapers filled with adverts for ‘quack’ remedies.
 
At this point, close to the summer holiday, the decision was taken to close all of the schools. The workhouse and the hospital announced that visitors would not be allowed until further notice. These acts coincided with a decline in the disease; however, if people thought the worst was over, they were sadly mistaken. 
 
Over the summer and autumn the disease seemed to disappear, in fact it was mutating into a more lethal form.
 
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By October 1918 influenza was back in the newspapers, along with the adverts for ‘Formamint’, and this time they were reporting a rapidly rising death rate. Germany was severely affected, the virus having been carried there by prisoners of war.
 
By late October the flu had reached Southport and for the first time there were reports of people collapsing in the street.
 
Some victims died within hours of their first symptoms. Others lasted five or six days; before finally dying of the other symptoms, usually pneumonia. The death notices in local papers began to feature the phrase “from pneumonia, following influenza”.
 
By October 1918 influenza was back in the newspapers, along with the adverts for ‘Formamint’, and this time they were reporting a rapidly rising death rate. Germany was severely affected, the virus having been carried there by prisoners of war.
 
By late October the flu had reached Southport and for the first time there were reports of peoplecollapsing in the street.
 
Some victims died within hours of their first symptoms. Others lasted five or six days; before finally dying of the other symptoms, usually pneumonia. The death notices in local papers began to feature the phrase “from pneumonia, following influenza”.
 
 
  
In late November the death rate began to rapidly increase and once again Darwen was affected first. On 25th November Dr Haworth, the town’s Medical Officer, advised that all public meetings should be postponed, including Sunday Schools and evening classes. There had been 44 funerals during the week and the town was virtually at a standstill because of sickness. Eleven people died in the town the following day and all election meetings were cancelled. Mr Jepson, the manager of the Darwen Industrial co-op lost both his daughters Bertha (22) and Nora (20) to the flu within minutes of each other. By Friday the death toll for the week was 92. Over the weekend a further 22 people died; it must have been truly frightening.
 
In Blackburn overcrowded late night trams were denounced as ‘a veritable hot-bed of infection’ and there were calls for all schools, cinemas and theatres to be closed. As influenza was not a ‘notifiable disease’ the precise number of deaths due to influenza will never be known but the number of funerals (115) in one week was a sombre record; sadly, within months, it would be surpassed.
 
It was during this time that people became familiar with the  dreaded ‘Heliotrope cyanosis’. People learnt that if a person’s skin turned a blueish-grey their death was imminent as an uncontrollable haemorrhage filled their lungs with blood.
 
Particularly sad are the death notices for so many soldiers who had survived the war only to succumb to influenza within weeks of its end.
 
By December 1918, as the death rate suddenly declined, it appeared that the worst of the flu pandemic was over.  The Mayor of Darwen felt able to thank Councillor Holden for his support during the outbreak when he had stopped the libraries lending books fearing that germs would be spread on the books.
 
However, the virus was merely biding its time and suddenly in mid-February the flu struck again. This time it was at its worst in early March. On 1st March the Blackburn Times reported that the number of funerals the previous week had been 121 (the record would be the following week when 127 burials occurred). There were many families where two people had died and in the case of the Hopkinson family, of 116 Lambeth Terrace, the mother, father and son were all buried together, leaving their daughter still stricken with the disease. The numbers of inmates at the workhouse who died was particularly high and the Master, Mr Roberts, explained that this was because he was admitting people who had little or no hope of recovery.
 
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Captain Greenwood's death was reported in the Northern Daily Telegraph 18.11.1918. His funeral was held on the 21.11.1918 at Southport Cemetery, where he was buried with full military honours.
 
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Arthur Wilson's death was reported in the Northern Daily Telegraph of 13.12.1918.
 
One indication of the severity of the outbreak can be found in the Medical Officer’s reports. In the second week of March 1919, at the peak of the outbreak, the death rate in Blackburn had risen from a figure of 13 per thousand inhabitants to 65 per thousand.
 
In Darwen, Mr Whittle,of 67 Heys Lane, who had returned from the funeral of his wife and child on Friday, was found dead the following day, the whole family having been wiped out.
 
Then as now, one consequence of influenza, was depression and the newspapers contain several accounts of suicides attributed to the after-effects of the disease.
 
By now people had noticed a pattern in the flu outbreaks, they occurred roughly every 12 weeks, with each more lethal than the last, and in March 1919 the Blackburn Times predicted that there was likely to be another outbreak in June of that year.
 
What people thought of the prospect of another outbreak we don’t know, but we do know that after mutating into progressively more dangerous forms the virus mutated again and this time into a form we would recognise as ‘normal’ flu.
 
Although they didn’t know it, by May 1919, the worst was over for the people of Blackburn and Darwen. There continued to be outbreaks of flu but once again it was the very young and old that were at risk, exactly as it is today.
 
By Stephen Irwin, Education Officer, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery
 
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The Largest Refugee Movement in British History
 
 
September 1914. A quarter of a million Belgian Refugees poured in through Britain’s ports having escaped the advancing German Army which was steadily ravaging Belgium. This was and still is the largest refugee movement in British history and is now largely forgotten. What happened to these Refugees once they arrived? What was the British Government's response to the refugees and how did Blackburn contribute to the relief of Belgian Refugees?
 
On the 3rd of August 1914 the German Army implemented the Schlieffen plan, marching into Belgium and Luxemburg, violating the 1839 Treaty of London.  Britain had also signed this treaty which guaranteed Belgian neutrality; this brought Britain into the war against Germany and, as Belgium was now fighting with Britain, it meant that Britain became a safe haven for fleeing Belgians.
 
Belgian’s refusal to take a complacent attitude towards Germany’s act of aggression and Germany’s fear that Belgian civilians might resort to guerrilla warfare resulted in reprisals such as the execution of Belgian civilians and the burning and pillaging of Belgian property.
 
As the German Army advanced through Belgium, soldiers and civilians alike retreated to Antwerp. Antwerp was besieged by the German Army from the 4th of August until the 9th of October when German troops entered the city. During the siege of Antwerp many civilians fled Belgium via the ports along the Belgian coast, or they crossed into the Netherlands where they were interned or sailed from Rotterdam to Britain. At the same time Belgians living in the south of the country fled into France.
 
Britain having entered into the First World War in response to the invasion of neutral Belgian offered “Victims of the War the hospitality of the British Nation.” The National Government made preparations to receive and register Belgian refugees; however, due to the sheer numbers of refugees entering the country, they were overwhelmed and Belgian refugees, once registered in London, were dispersed throughout the country and the responsibility of the relief and housing of Belgian refugees was devolved to local government boards and sub-committees.
 
 
 The photograph above shows 8, Richmond Terrace, the premises of the Blackburn Belgian Relief Sub-Committee
 
 
 Blackburn’s Belgian Relief Sub-Committee was formed in September 1914 in conjunction with the Blackburn War Relief Committee. The number of refugees that the committee was in charge of at any one time peaked at 87.  Prior to the formation of the sub-committee, Blackburn had donated £1748 to the National Belgian Fund. Canon Lonsdale was the chairman of the Blackburn Belgian Relief Sub-Committee, whose official premises were situated at 8 Richmond Terrace. These offices had been donated to the committee by Mr Wilding.  The sub-committee worked to house Belgian refugees in vacant cottages and terraced houses, they also worked in conjunction with the labour exchange with a view to finding employment for the Belgian Refugees. The Blackburn sub-committee received housing donations from the public. Most notable was the donation of Ivy Bank, a large house on West Park Road, by Mrs Robinson. Ivy Bank was used to house refugees when they first arrived in Blackburn; from there they were distributed to other houses. As well as being used as a central distribution centre, Ivy Bank was used as a hostel to house Belgian soldiers coming on leave from the front. During the four and a half years that Ivy Bank served to house Belgian soldiers on leave, they lodged between forty and fifty. One other notable figure is Mr Joseph Dugdale, of Claremont, who offered the use of Oxendale Hall, Osbaldeston to the Committee. Oxendale Hall was furnished throughout and Mr Dugdale offered to “bear the costs of their maintenance.”
 
The photograph below shows Ivy Bank
 
 
 
 
 
 Many of the churches in Blackburn offered the use of their Parish Rooms to house Belgian Refugees, namely St. Peter’s Church, Leamington Road Baptist Church and St. Silas’s Church.  In December 1914 St. Silas’s Church accommodated 10 Belgian refugees whose ages varied from twenty and fifty.
 
The photograph below shows Belgian refugees outside St. Silas' Church
 
 
 
 
 
 
Among the many refugees who arrived in Blackburn some were already acquainted with the area and a few even had acquaintances in the area. Monsieur and Madame Piens who were formerly from Brussels arrived in Blackburn in October 1914; they were already acquainted with Mr G. A. Yates having once entertained Mr Yates when he visited Brussels some years before.
 
In October 1914 the sub-committee registered the “Blackburn Fund Relief of Belgian Refugees.” It was established to “give necessary assistance and provide maintenance for necessitous Belgian Refugees living in Blackburn”. Over a prolonged period of time many of the Belgian Refugees became self sufficient, and were able to work in the area, some of whom worked in the Munitions factories. Therefore, the need for local funding diminished as the war progressed. Local traders were also willing to help the Belgian Refugees; they supplied them with food and other necessary goods at reduced prices. Blackburn Sub-committee set up a fund for the Relief of Belgian Prisoners of War in October 1916. Twelve Belgian Prisoners of War were adopted by private individuals on the recommendation of the London committee. It was intended that food parcels and other such necessities would be sent to the Belgian Prisoners of War on a fortnightly basis. This fund ceased in 1917 owing to new regulations issued by the London Committee.
 
Blackburn sub-committee frequently received offers of accommodation and funding from the public in the opening years of the War.  In July 1915 the children of Audley Range Council School raised 18 shillings for the local Belgian refugees. Mr Oliver also made a donation of £140 towards the Belgian fund; the money was raised through two performances by the Amateur Dramatics Company. Blackburn Rovers Football club gave a donation of £150. Similarly the committee also received donations of clothing and furniture. Many of the Belgian children attended the local schools. Six Belgian girls received education at Notre Dame Convent(pictured below) as a gift from the Sisters and three boys also received free education at Blackburn Grammar School.
 
 
 
 
 The majority of Belgian Refugees returned to Belgium after the Armistice in November 1918. The First Belgian families to leave Blackburn left at the end of 1918, the last to leave left in March 1919.  The Blackburn sub-committee established a fund for the “Repatriation of Belgian Refugees.” The joint secretaries were Mrs. Teresa Mary Wilding and Mrs. Mercia Thom who had helped to establish several other funds to help the Belgian Refugees of Blackburn.  This fund was established to assist Belgian Refugees to return to Belgium; they were given gifts of money or goods to help facilitate this. All Refugees leaving Blackburn for Belgium were provided with warm clothing and boots. The money that was needed to cover the expenditure to supply these gifts was raised by three ladies: Mrs. Henry, Mrs Thom and Miss Dugdale; who had raised the money in 1916. The Repatriation fund which was established in 1916 ran until March 1919 when the last of the Belgian refuges had left Blackburn. The houses used to tenant Belgian refugees were returned to their previous owners as was the furniture donated to the sub-committee.
 
Blackburn was one of many towns and cities that established committees to help the quarter of a million Belgian refugees who arrived in Britain in the concluding months of 1914.  As is evident from newspaper cuttings and accounts, people were only too willing to help the Belgian refugees entering Britain; it was something that the British public could physically do to help with the war effort. As the First World War progressed, the plight of Belgian refugees was overshadowed by the rising casualty lists; people became focused upon family members, sons, brothers and fathers, who were fighting at the front. Interest in Belgian refugees diminished and that is why the largest refugee movement in British history is largely forgotten about today.
 
Researched and written by Jane McMahon, student at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School, whilst on work experience at Blackburn Museum.
 
If you would like to hear a podcast about the Belgian Refugees given by Stephen Irwin, Education Officer at
Blackburn Museum please click on the following link: Belgian Refugee Podcast which has been posted on Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council's online edition of "The Shuttle", August 2014.
 
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BRITISH RED CROSS
 
The British Red Cross along with the St John Ambulance Association were responsible for co-ordinating many of the Military Hospitals in the Country. Please select the following link in order to see the List of Auxilliary Hospitals in the United Kingdom during the First World War: List of Auxiliary Hospitals in the UK during the First World War
 
BLACKBURN
 
Blackburn was  designated to be a large clearing hospital for this district. Troops who landed on the East coast were immediately sent to various inland locations so that  the coast hospitals were always kept free for the reception of wounded sailors and soldiers coming in later.
 
OXENDALE HALL In the early days of the War, Mr Joseph Dugdale, J.P.  of “Claremont”,  East Park Road placed his country residence, Oxendale Hall, in the Ribble Valley at the disposal of the committee (Blackburn War Hospital Committee) for a convalescent home and generously offered a contribution towards the expenses. Blackburn Times, 26.09.1914
 
ELLERSLIE
 
Ellerslie,situated on East Park Road, opened with 28 beds on 28 October 1914. The house was rented and staffed with entirely voluntary personnel by the British Red Cross Society and St John Ambulance Brigade. The Blackburn Times noted that the best possible use had been made of the many rooms, noting that there were 6 beds in what was formerly the library, 5 in the old drawing room whilst the dining room accommodated 4 beds. (Blackburn Times, 24.10.1914).
 
By the end of October 1914, visiting times which were fixed for Tuesday and Fridays from 2.30pm to 3.45pm were being advertised in the local papers. It was noted that anyone wishing to see the hospital would be welcome during visiting hours.  Permits, however, had to be purchased from Messers Seed and Gabbatt (Booksellers), 4, Preston New Road.  A charge of a shilling each was made, in order to raise money for the hospital. Blackburn Weekly Telegraph, 31.10.1914.
 
During the first year of the War, the Red Cross accounts for 166 admittances between October 28 1914 to August 4, 1915 comprising of 132 British soldiers and sailors, 5 Australians, 1 Canadian and 28 Belgians.
 
In August 1915, the number of beds was raised to 41, and, at that time, the hospital contained nine wards, an isolation ward, mess room, day room, billiard room and pack store, as well as kitchen facilities and staff bedroom.  All the operations were undertaken by the authorities of Blackburn Infirmary who were also responsible for x-ray diagnosis.
 
East Lancashire Branch British Red Cross Society: An Illustrated Account of the Work of the Branch During the First Year of the War, Sherratt & Hughes, Manchester, 1916 (pp. 256 – 259).
 
The addition of an annexe in April 1916  increased the number of beds to 50.
 
In July 1916, a request was received from the Authorities for further accommodation; and this the Committees were enabled promptly to provide by the generous offers of the  late Mr Adam Dugdale and Mr Norman Dugdale to let Staveleigh at a nominal rent, and of Mr & Mrs Wilcock Holgate to bear the whole cost of its furniture and equipment.  The number of beds was thus increased to 75.
 
Another urgent request for more hospital accommodation was made to the Committee in May 1917. The Blackburn Corporation at the instance of the Mayor (Alderman Nuttall) placed the recently built Public Halls in Northgate at the disposal of the Committee.  The military hospital was then removed from Ellerslie and Staveleigh to the new Public Halls which contained 120 beds and still retained the name Ellerslie Auxiliary Home Hospital. In June 1917, the average admission rate per month was 53.  The soldiers admitted between 1914 and June 1917 comprised of British, 684; Austrailians, 10; Canadians, 9; New Zealanders, 1; and Belgians, 28 and, although there had been some serious cases, no deaths had occurred at the hospital.
 
Ellerslie Auxilliary Home Hospital, Public Halls, Report, 1914 -1917 prepared by J. W. Carter (Chairman), 30 June, 1917
 
Ellerslie Hospital, The Public Halls, Blackburn
 
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(c) Blackburn with Darwen
 


 
Blackburn Infirmary
 
As well as supporting the work at Ellerslie and Moss Bridge, Blackburn Royal Infirmary was also asked to provide a ward for the sick and wounded coming from France as early as November 1914.  The Board of Management of the Blackburn and East Lancashire Royal Infirmary received a letter from the Military Hospital, Manchester, stating that more beds were urgently required, and asking for the Blackburn Infirmary’s co-operation.  The Board decided, in a time of national emergency to offer twenty beds at the Royal Infirmary for the reception of wounded soldiers, and additional provision was made by converting all available rooms into temporary wards, so as not to unduly restrict the accommodation for civil cases.  Blackburn Weekly Telegraph, 14.11.1914
 
A wooden building was erected in 1915 adjoining Ward 5 at a cost of £1,500, and hundreds of wounded soldiers received treatment there during the years 1915 – 1919.  Known as the “Annexe”, the ward was intended to be a semi-permanent structure but was still being used 50 years later.  (A History of Blackburn and East Lancashire Royal Infirmary 1865 – 1965, produced by Blackburn and District Hospital Management Committee, p.7).
 
Billinge House (established February 1919): 
 
The following report appeared in the Blackburn Weekly Telegraph: "Billinge House, Preston New Road used for the past 3 years as a home for disabled soldiers and sailors still undergoing treatment, more particularly, those suffering from paralysis of the lower limbs, was closed on Monday.
The house came under the control of the Committee for the Northern Area of the  East Lancashire Homes for Disabled Sailors and Soldiers about the time it was offered for sale by private treaty, and, on February 1, 1919, it was assigned to the purpose already stated. It has now been closed because of the reduction in the number of patients requiring the particular kind of treatment for which it was equipped. ……..The patients have the option of going to the Manchester Home (Broughton House) for the remainder of their course of treatment. Blackburn Weekly Telegraph 07.01.1922
 
DARWEN
 
According to the British Red Cross list of Auxilliary Hospitals in operation during the First World War Moss Bridge Hospital and Tullyallan School provided accommodation for wounded soldiers and sailors in Darwen.
 
Moss Bridge Hospital, Darwen
 
Jill Faux's compilation of her Grandmother's diaries provide an illuminating insight into life in Darwen and, at Moss Bridge Hospital, during 1914.
 
The entry for  October 19, 1914 notes: “We have had official news today that we shall have 20 wounded men at Moss Bridge tomorrow.  I am very glad as I was beginning to despair of it being used.  I hope we shall be able to make it a success”.
 
October 24, 1914: entry includes a note to say that four British soldiers had arrived at Moss Bridge Hospital.
 
Granny’s War: The War Time diaries of a Lancashire cotton mill owner’s wife, 1914 – 1945 by Ethel Hinemoa Shorrock edited by her granddaughter Jill Faux. Copies of this diary are available to consult at both Blackburn and Darwen Library and are available to buy from Blackburn & Darwen Tourist Information Office in Blackburn Market.
 
Information (below) kindly provided by Jill, depicts how active her Grandmother was in visiting sick and wounded soldiers particularly those from New Zealand :
 
Paddock House Oswaldtwistle
Pt Bainbridge J. W.    10/19 Taraniki Rifles, shot lungs
 
Elmfield, Accrington
Pt Stevenson, L. P. 8/113  Otago Batt - heart
Pt. Evans J. 7039 1st Batt - wrist
 
Ellerslie, Blackburn
Pt. Cowdrey, Edwin  12/1063 16th Co Auk - shoulder
 
Woodlands, Wigan
Pt.Lynds, James 12/1456 6th Hawraki Auk - leg and shoulder
Tn. Bremmer, John 12/213  Well - left hand
Dri Hendrick, George 2/787, No 2 Co - left elbow
Pt. Rea, Earnest 10/813, Taranta, Well - foot damage
Serg. Hamilton, M.  8/1139 Otago - left hand
Cpl Griffiths, J. 10/358 A Co Well - groin
Pt. Scott, Frank 6/720 13th Canter - left hand
Cpl Marsh, Cecil 40911 F.A. Res Batt - Deafness
B Lloyd Harry 27370, 15th Highlanders C Co - scalds
Pt. Fenwick, Charles 63340, 4t Batt B Co - head
 
Auxiliary Military Hospital, Haslingden
Pt. Jeffries,, J. 6/2173 2nd Can - enteritis
 
According to Jill, her Grandmother made notes of the errands she ran and the things she bought for the soldiers, from where she made the purchases as well as  the price of items, such as, Boots from Salter and Salter, Wigan for 19/6d.
 
 
During the early portion of 1915 a new wing was added to Moss Bridge Hospital, increasing the accommodation from 29 to 55 beds and the extension fund was opened by a generous donation from Messrs. J. and W. G. Shorrock.  Within a month of the completion of the new wing every bed was occupied.  The dressings, which averaged 70 to 75 per day, kept the staff of nurses very busily engaged. 
 
Early in June (1915), the Matron, Miss McGregor, withdrew her services to take up duty at the Cardiff Military Hospital, and Miss Yates accepted the vacated position; she was assisted by Sisters Payne and Platt, together with seven day and two night nurses from the St. John Ambulance Brigade.
 
In June (1915) the staff and patients decided to raise sufficient money to pay off the remaining debt of £89 on the new wing.  A very successful Garden Party was held in the grounds on June 25 and 26, at which numerous and varied attractions were organised.  A most interesting feature was a trench “Somewhere in France”, made and manned by wounded soldiers from the Hospital.  On the right of the trench was a “dug-out”, and hundreds of visitors traversed the anything but easy road that led to this realistic scene.
 
There were two sections of trenches, loop holed and protected by barbed wire.  Visitors were shown the working periscope from the trenches, and the gas protector helmets were clearly explained by Corporal Haworth of the 1st East Lancs. Within a month another Garden Party was held, and on this occasion, in addition to again giving a most vivid representation of actual trenches, there was a most interesting innovation.  This was a camp-life scene, and the soldiers sold tea made in dixies over the regular camp fires.
 
The Two Garden Parties were exceedingly instructive, and they realised the sum of £370, out of which an x-ray apparatus has been purchased for the Hospital. A new hall at that time was in the progress of being built in order to contain dining and recreation rooms following which the Hospital contained six wards, office, three bed-sitting rooms, dining room, two kitchens, linen room, operating theatre and bathroom.
 
The report notes that there were 277 admittances from October 22, 1914 to August 4, 1915 comprising British, 246, Australians, 3; Canadians, 5 and 23 Belgians. These troops had contracted their wounds or primary illnesses from France and Belgium, Gallipoli and Great Britain. Injuries tended to be bullet and shrapnel wounds, frost bite, gas inhalation, rheumatism plus a range of other conditions.
 
Information regarding Moss Bridge: East Lancashire Branch British Red Cross Society: An Illustrated Account of the Work of the Branch During the First Year of the War, Sherratt & Hughes, Manchester, 1916, pp. 253-255.
 
Moss Bridge Hospital Ward
 
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Moss Bridge Hospital,  photograph below taken by Ted Kershaw, Darwen
 
 
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The following images are taken from the autograph book of Mercy Anne Forrest Hunt (Mrs Old) who worked as a Nurse at Moss Bridge Hospital. 
 
Information kindly supplied by Tony Foster Friends of Darwen Cemetery notes that Mercy was singled out for praise in an article which appeared in The Darwen Gazette. The ladies who served as Voluntary Aid Dispatch workers at Moss Bridge were recognised for their hard work and contribution at an awards ceremony which took place at the St John Ambulance Drill Hall.  Dr I W Heywood noted that "It would not be right of him to select from amongst all who did so much particular ladies for special mention, but he felt that he ought to mention Mrs Old who worked so splendidly during the time she was at Moss Bridge. The Darwen Gazette, Saturday, November 13, 1920.
 
The autographs give an insight into the talents and experiences of the soldiers who were recovering from their injuries. They  also provide clues as to who stayed at Moss Bridge during this period; some of the pages have been signed by Belgian soldiers.  The images have been kindly provided by Mr Philip Old (Mercy's Grandson). Of particular interest is the entry provided by Gunner George Old who ultimately married Mercy at St Cuthbert's Church in Darwen and, is therefore,
Mr Old's Grandfather. 
 
 E. Taylor, 1916 
Philip Old album Moss Bridge.jpg
(c) Philip Old
 
 
 
The following entry is from Gunner George Old, Royal Field Artillery who was injured at Le Basse.
 
Grandads Poem.jpg
(c) Philip Old
 
Autograph of Belgian Soldier, Joseph Mertem

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(c) Philip Old
 
H.Fewkes, 1/4th London Regt. R.F.
 
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(c) Philip Old
 
 
Jock

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(c) Philip Old
 
Private J. Sweeney, Coldstream Guards, 5 November 1916
 
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Private I. Pattinson, K.G.R. Lancs Regt.
 
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(c) Philip Old
 
Further photographs relating to Moss Bridge Hospital can be found on:  Darwen Days 
 
WHALLEY
 
Queen Mary’s Military Hospital, Whalley
Initially the hospital had been built to make provision for the accommodation of “pauper lunatics” but as the building was nearing completion it was decided that it needed to be turned over to the War Office. The hospital was officially opened as a military hospital on April 14, 1915 and staffed by men from the Royal Army Medical Corps along with nurses from Princess Alexandra’s Nursing Corps and the Voluntary Aid Detachment. They treated some 67,000 British and Allied troops from that time until the end of the War.  The first convoy of sick and wounded arrived a month later on May 6, 1915.
 
Information above taken from: “Words from the Wounded: Injured soldiers’ view of the trenches of the First World War” edited by David Boderke, Countryside Publication, 1989.
 
In July 1920, “The Blackburn Weekly Telegraph” (BWT)  reported:
“Queen Mary’s Military Hospital at Whalley where thousands of sick and wounded soldiers were nursed back to health and strength during the war and after, was on Wednesday “demobbed”, and the last of the patients numbering 44 left the institution by ambulance train.  These men are those who were badly hit and are technically known as stretcher cases.  Millbank and Edmondton Hospitals, London were their destinations”, (BWT 03.07.1920).  Two years later, in 1922, Queen Mary’s Military Hospital ceased to exist.