Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hospitals with Chandeliers

Duchess of Westminster Hospital, Le Touquet, France
The young Duchess of Westminster, like so many others, was eager to do “her bit” for the war effort, so she turned her seaside villa in Le Touquet France into a hospital with the help of the Red Cross. In the early days of the war, she and her friends would dress in full evening regalia, including diamond tiaras, to greet the incoming wounded whatever time of day. "It's the least we can do to cheer up the men," the Duchess would say, her wolfhound at her side. Her villa soon became too small, and her hospital took over the local Casino, which is probably what we see in the photo above. I couldn’t resist creating the fictional Duchess of Axminster’s hospital on the French coast in Elusive Dawn.

Rothschild Villa Strassburg, Deauville, France [by Kamel 15- GNU General Public Licence]
Other private estates were offered as convalescent homes. Canadian VAD Violet Wilson accepted a position at this Rothschild villa in Deauville, France. Luxuries were provided by wealthy Canadians for officers recuperating from minor wounds and illnesses. Violet was rather disgusted that she was little more than a glorified housemaid, just serving tea and so forth. But the benefit of this resort-like place to the officers was evident in this newspaper article.

Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Bearwood Park
Bearwood Convalescent Hospital in Woking, England had been a private home with 90 bedrooms, belonging to the widow of the Times newspaper owner. It housed 900 Canadian soldiers. The Canadian Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE) funded and set up a Red Cross officers’ hospital in London. The Red Cross also arranged for convalescing officers to spend up to a month as guests at country houses in England, or failing that, in hotels.

Officers and nurses were often sent to the Riviera on sick leave. Famous poet-doctor, Lieutenant-Colonial John McCrae (who wrote "In Flanders Fields"), spent 3 weeks at Cap Martin in late 1916 recovering from pleurisy. The balmy weather and absence of shellfire and air raids undoubtedly provided a relaxing and healthful retreat – a temporary reprieve from the mud and blood of war.

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