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Bishops Knoll

Bishops Knoll

Robert Bush

Ref 1 page 370 part Chapter 12- Phases and Events : A Diary

On September 20th Bristol welcomed a number of representa- tives of our Overseas Dominions, including a party of twenty journalists from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Newfoundland. The visitors were entertained to luncheon, and during the speeches reference was made to the fact that about 2,000 Australians had benefited by treatment at Bishop's Knoll, and had gone away with grateful memories of the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. R. E. Bush. The Rt. Hon. Andrew Fisher, Lord Morris, and Sir Thomas Mackenzie were among the speakers.

Ref 1 page 380 part Chapter 12- Phases and Events : A Diary

A complimentary dinner was given at the Bristol Liberal Club on March 1st to Mr. R. E. Bush. Particular interest was invested in the gathering by the attendance of General Birdwood in recognition of the great liberality of Mr. Bush in caring for wounded Australian soldiers by turning his beautiful home at Stoke Bishop (Bishop's Knoll) into a hospital, to which he and Mrs. Bush devoted constant attention. The leader of the Australian troops spoke in terms of warm praise of this great service.

Lt. Col J. Paul Bush

Ref 1 page 152 part Chapter 3 - Care of Sick and Wounded

For the first years of the war all the hospitals in Bristol, with the exception of Horfield, were in direct communication with the Deputy - Director of Medical Services, Southern Command; in April, 1916, Beaufort War Hospital was placed in the Devonport area for administrative purposes; in August, 1918, all hospitals, convalescent homes, the medical arrange- ment for troops and prisoner of war camps, etc., in the counties of Gloucester, Somerset, and Wilts (part of) were placed in a new area, No. 2 Area, Southern Command, with headquarters at Bristol; Lieut.-Colonel Paul Bush, C.M.G., was brought back from France to administrate this area as Assistant Director of Medical Services.

Robert Bush & Lt. Col J. Paul Bush

Ref 1 pages 141-148 part Chapter 3 - Care of Sick and Wounded


These detachments, some of which had been formed in November, 1909, were trained and annually inspected for efficiency in transport and hospital work until the outbreak of the war, when they were mobilised in accordance with the War Office scheme. The first hospital train arrived in Bristol on September 2nd, 1914, when 120 men came from Mons. From that date 417 trains were dealt with, bringing 37,771 sitting cases and 31,640 stretcher cases, making a total of 69,411- The detachments also undertook the subsequent removals from the base hospitals to the various auxiliary hospitals in the surrounding neighbourhood. Altogether 102,933 patients were dealt with in this way. Ambulances were given or lent to the Bristol Branch of the British Red Cross Society for this purpose, and were supplemented by the civil ambulances of the St. John Ambulance Brigade and cars owned by various ladies and gentlemen, many of whom gave their personal assistance as drivers. There were nine detachments in Bristol, three men's and six women's.

The War Office numbers and names of Commandants were as follow: Bristol/1, Mr. T. Crawford; Bristol/3, Mr. Charles Challenger; Bristol/5, Mr. A. Cotton, M.B.E.; Bristol/2, Mrs. S. G. Griffiths, O.B.E.; Bristol/4, Mrs. E. M. Jolly; Bristol/6, Mrs. M. V. Harvey; Bristol/8, Mrs. M. G. Ormerod; Bristol/To, Mrs. S. M. Napier Miles; Bristol/12, Mrs. M. E. Herapath. These detachments were raised by the British Red Cross Society except Bristol/5, which was raised by the local corps of the St. John Ambulance Brigade.

The three men's detachments and the first four women's detachments assisted at the Bristol station, carrying out all the work in detraining and in feeding men on arrival during all hours of the day and night. The Bristol/10 detachment reserved its services for the Kingsweston auxiliary hospital, which was organised and controlled by Mr. and Mrs. Napier Mile; and Bristol/12 detachment assisted at the Bishop's Knoll hospital, a branch of the 2nd Southern General Hospital, which was organised and controlled by Mr. and Mrs. R.E.. Bush.

There were 432 men in the Bristol detachments, of whom 242 served in His Majesty's Forces. The women numbered 464, serving in the various military and auxiliary hospitals and assisting in the detraining of sick and wounded at the Bristol stations. A large proportion of the ambulance trains arrived in the early hours of the morning, and much credit is due to all those helpers who attended regularly, as it often meant that they had to go to their day's work after the unloading of the train. It was a frequent occurrence for the ambulance drivers to work for forty-eight hours at a stretch, yet in spite of all, the workers were most willing, and their cheery manner and the gentleness they showed when dealing with the stretcher cases were greatly appreciated by the wounded men, so much so that Bristol won fame at the fronts for the treatment of the sick and wounded soldiers who returned. On many occasions the detachments have been complimented by the military authorities on the carefulness and celerity with which the sick and wounded soldiers were treated.

At the outbreak of the war the Military Authorities placed the detachment in the hands of the County Director, Dr. J. S. Grifliths, to take charge of whilst they were mobilised. As an honorary military official and representative of the Joint War Committee he was also responsible for the internal economy and administration of all auxiliary hospitals in his area in receipt of a capitation grant from the War Office. The certification of all motor spirit licences for Red Cross work, the purchase of all kinds of foodstuffs, issue of priority certificates for hospital repairs, and countless other details were comprised in the work of his office, in which he was assisted by his Secretary, Mr. W. B. Williams, A.C.I.S. The Selection Board for inter- viewing all candidates for nursing and general service work in hospitals for the sick and wounded was comprised as follows : Mrs. S. G. Griffiths, O.B.E., Chairman, Mrs. M. G. Ormerod, Mrs. E. M. Jolly, with Mrs. L Smith as Honorary Secretary. The number of candidates interviewed was 376, most of whom received appointments.


The history of the 2nd Southern General Hospital, R.A.M.C. (T.F.), dates back to the Territorial Force Act of 1908, when it was first formed. On formation it was placed under the command of Lieut.-Colonel J. Paul Bush, C.M.G., who continued in his post down to April, 1917, when the War Office requested him to organise a Southern General Hospital for France.

From 1908 to August, 1914, the hospital existed only "on paper "; but the staff were all appointed, and once a year the Officers (with the exception of the a la suite officers), N.C.O.'s and men were mobilised for a month's training in camp. The original scheme provided only for a hospital of 520 beds, and the Bristol Royal Infirmary Committee, on the completion of their King Edward VII. Memorial building, undertook to supply this accommodation on the outbreak of a war. The Matron of the Royal Infirmary, Miss A. B. Baillie, was also appointed as Principal Matron on the Territorial Force Nursing Staff, with control of all the nursing personnel.

On August 4th, 1914, mobilisation took place and Lieut.-Colonel Bush assumed command. The Royal Infirmary Committee found the claims of the civil population were so heavy that it was impossible for them to supply, as had been arranged, the full unit of 520 beds. They, however, placed at the disposal of the authorities the magnificent new wing of the Infirmary, with 260 beds (which in 1912 was opened by His Majesty the King), splendidly equipped and in full working order. In order to furnish the full unit the Bristol Board of Guardians who had just erected an Infirmary of 260 beds at Southmead, came forward in the most patriotic manner and offered to place this new building free of rent at the disposal of the War Office. Both these offers were gladly accepted, and the city of Bristol was fortunate indeed in having public institutions of such a character devoted to the welfare of the wounded, fully equipped and actually ready for use. At the end of August the first convoy of wounded men was received.

The war had not been in progress many weeks before it was realised that the 520 beds originally contemplated would be quite inadequate, and extensions would have to be made. The Southmead section was enlarged at once, and Mr. R. E. Bush, brother to Lieut.-Colonel Paul Bush, placed his beautiful house, Bishop's Knoll, Stoke Bishop, in the hands of the authorities, and in the most patriotic way converted it at his own expense into a. hospital for 100 beds, and maintained it (specially for Australian soldiers) without cost to the country throughout the war, Mr. Bush was not content to equip and maintain the hospital, but he acted as Commandant, assisted by Mrs. Bush as Quartermaster. The hospital very quickly earned a reputation for comfort and efficiency that were probably unsurpassed anywhere, while the gratitude of the patients and the continuous requests from the wounded to be sent to this hospital showed that its reputation was fully deserved.

In fact, it may be said at once that a striking feature of all the hospitals in Bristol and its neighbourhood was the efficiency of the organisation and the excellent arrangements made for the comfort and welfare of the patients. Early in the war a very successful innovation was made in the and Southern General .One of the most important sections of the clerical work was that connected with finance. The Officer Commanding, seeing the importance and vastness of this work, obtained the services of Mr. J. Arnold Lambert as Financial Secretary. The scheme under his management proved so successful that it was subsequently adopted in other centres.

So much for the beginning of the Base Hospital itself, but additional beds were simultaneously being provided in numerous hospitals staffed and equipped by the detachments of the British Red Cross Society. These hospitals were not confined to Bristol, but were scattered over the counties of Gloucester, Somerset and Wilts, and were all under the control of the Commanding Officer at the 2nd Southern. These hospitals did not receive patients direct from the Front, except at a later date in the important centre at Cheltenham, but acted as reliefs to the Central Hospital, which passed on its patients to the Red Cross Hospitals as soon as they were fit for the journey and were no longer in need of any special treatment which could only be provided in the Base Hospital.

The first Red Cross Hospitals were opened in October, 1914, Sir Charles Cave's fine house at Cleve Hill being the earliest opened in the Bristol district, closely followed by Handel Cossham Hospital at Kingswood. In the same month the first two hospitals were opened at Cheltenham, which was afterwards to become the most important centre, outside Bristol, in the area of the and Southern. Farther afield in Gloucestershire Charlton Park, Lydney, Gloucester, Stroud, Tewkesbury, Horton, and Badminton were all opened in 1914 1 in Wiltshire Corsham, and in Somerset Newton St. Loe, Clevedon, Gourney Court at West Harptree, Shepton Mallet, the Sanatorium at Weston-super-Mare, two hospitals at Bath, viz. the Royal Mineral Water and the Royal United hospitals, were receiving patients before the end of the year.

To return to the Base Hospital. Before Christmas, 1914, it was realised that a further extension was necessary, and arrangements were at once put in hand to again extend the number of beds at Southmead. Five temporary wards were erected, airy and spacious, and shortly after, to supply a great want, a recreation room for the use of patients was added through the instrumentality of the Inquiry Bureau, who subsequently enlarged and considerably improved it. Better accommodation for the R.A.M.C. staff was also provided. Two years later, in 1917, a further 300 beds were added in temporary wards, making the total accommodation at Southmead for the last two years 1,040 beds, while accommodation for yet another 300 was provided by tents.

Throughout the years 1915 and 1916 the authorities in London were ever crying for more beds, and in response to this demand, together with the large increase at the Central Hospital, more and more auxiliary Red Cross Hospitals were being opened. In Bristol altogether there were eleven hospitals, viz. Cleve Hill, Handel Cossham and Almondsbury, opened in 1914; Foye House, Kingsweston, the Homoeopathic Hospital, opened in 1915; the Bruce Cole Hospital, the Eye Hospital, the General Hospital and the Queen Victoria Hospital in 1916 ; and in 1917 the Ashton Court Hospital for officers.

Captain Sir Frank Colchester-Wemyss, as County Director of the Gloucestershire Red Cross Society, organised and arranged for the equipment by the Gloucestershire Red Cross Society of numerous auxiliary hospitals in the County of Gloucester. He quickly brought into play his great powers of organisation, and instituted a scheme for supplies of food for auxiliary hospitals, which proved so successful that it was recommended for adoption throughout the country.

The two hospitals at Cheltenham were soon increased to sixteen, with some 1,400 beds, in the Cheltenham area, and from May, 1915, onwards ambulance trains were received there direct from the ports. Altogether from first to last there were seventy-four auxiliary hospitals administered from Bristol, though not quite all of these were ever open at the same time, and those in the Cheltenham area were for purposes of administration treated as one large hospital of 1,400 beds.

As the war proceeded a fresh enlargement was made at the Central Hospital. In 1916 the Red Maids' School at Westbury-on-Trym was converted into a hospital of 200 beds. It was admirably equipped by the British Red Cross Society, who also obtained and furnished a large house for the nursing staff of this new section of the and Southern.

The work of administering this very large area, with its numerous scattered hospitals, was very arduous, and at times, such as during the great battle on the Somme in 1916 and the attacks in Flanders in 1917, the pressure was for weeks at a time almost more than the staff could withstand, and enormous as the increase of beds had been, there were many days when the supply fell short of the demand, and it was seen that the provision made, which had at one time seemed almost extravagant, was barely sufficient for the needs of the time.

In 1917 Lieut.-Colonel Bush accepted the post of Officer Commanding the 56th Southern General Hospital, B.E.F., and at very short notice left for France, taking with him a large number of medical officers, nurses and R.A.M.C. staff. He was succeeded by Lieut.-Colonel Arthur B. Prowse, who remained in command until the hospital was closed in the spring of 1919.

By the autumn of 1917 the hospital reached its fullest development. No further hospitals were added after November, 1917, though extra accommodation was found in existing hospitals, notably the Bristol General Hospital, which gave extra wards for the use of the soldiers.

At the beginning of the war, apart of course from the members of the T.F.N.S., the staff consisted exclusively of officers, N.C.O.'s and men of the R.A.M.C. As time went on the need for men grew more pressing. One of the difficulties which the administration had to face was the constant withdrawal of all men fit for active service, and their replacement, first by men of a lower physical standard, and later by women. At the time of the Armistice practically the whole clerical staff and the telephone operators consisted of women, who worked most steadily and enthusiastically.

The last change in the general character of the and Southern General Hospital came iix the spring of 1918, when the large Southmead section was converted into a special centre for orthopedic treatment. A majority of the beds were reserved for these special surgical cases, and by the end of the year the Military Authorities decided to make the hospital a separate establishment, and detach it from the 2nd Southern. On January 1st, 1919, it ceased to be the Southmead section and became the Special Military Surgical Hospital, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel A. Milne Thomson, C.M.G., until the autumn of 1919, when the hospital was closed and the patients transferred to the hospital under the control of the Ministry of Pensions at Bath.

At the end the 2nd Southern was closed down with a speed which was almost startling at the time. Between January 1st, 1919, and the end of April of the same year all the patients were cleared, or handed over to other hospitals. By the end of March the splendid work of the Cheltenham Area was finished and the hospitals emptied. About one half of the remaining auxiliaries were closed, and the remainder, which still contained many patients, were placed under the control of other hospitals. In the middle of April the Royal Infirmary despatched its remaining cases either to Bath or to the Red Maids' Section, which was handed over to the Southmead Surgical Hospital, and remained open till the autumn.

By the beginning of May, 1919, there was but a skeleton staff, consisting of the Commanding Officer, the Registrar and the Quartermaster, who in temporary offices at Clifton finished the long and difficult process of winding-up a great hospital after almost five years of existence.

Some mention must be made of the special work done at the hospital. The main portion of beds were always avail- able for ordinary sick and wounded, but in addition to the special surgical work at Southmead many other specialist centres were maintained. Among these may be mentioned typhoid and dysentery cases, for which the hospital was a centre, a large number of beds reserved for penetrating wounds of the chest, and an ophthalmic centre which was created at the headquarters at the Royal Infirmary for dealing with all men whose sight was destroyed or seriously injured. Very large numbers of men who had lost one eye (men totally blind all went to St. Dunstan's) passed through this section, and when their wound was healed were fitted with artificial eyes.

Throughout the war there was at headquarters a Standing Medical Board, and many thousands of officers and men appeared before them.




1 Bristol and the Great War 1914-19, Editors George F. Stone and Charles Wells, Published by J.W.Arrowsmith Ltd., Quay Street, Bristol 1920