November 25, 2014

The Dome Hospital

This is a photograph of the interior of the Dome Hospital in Brighton, on the south coast of Britain. Several buildings in Brighton were converted into hospitals during the First World War to treat the thousands of Indian soldiers who were wounded while fighting in France. The most spectacular of these was the converted Royal Pavilion in Brighton, originally built in the “oriental” style for King George IV in the early 1800s. There were over 680 beds for wounded Indian soldiers in this hospital, and it was “fitted with every modern convenience.” This series of several hundred photographs recording the contribution of Indian soldiers to the Allied war effort was produced in 1915 by the Canadian-born photographer Charles Hilton DeWitt Girdwood (1878−1964). As a professional photographer, Girdwood had an early connection with India, where he photographed the Delhi Durbar of 1903, the royal tour of 1905−6, and the Delhi Durbar of 1911. In 1908 he set up a photographic agency called Realistic Travels, specializing in stereoscopic photography. With the outbreak of war in 1914, Girdwood returned from India and in April 1915 was given permission by the India Office to photograph the work of the Indian military hospitals in Bournemouth and Brighton. From July to September 1915 he worked in France as an official photographer to record Indian, and later British, troops in the field. In the later part of his time in France he also made ciné film of the campaign, which appeared under the title With the Empire’s Fighters.

Garvin Papers. Bound Notebook

In April 1915 Second Lieutenant Roland Gerard Garvin of the British Army enrolled in a course of instruction at Staff College in Camberley, Surrey, England. There he attended lectures on tactical instruction, topography, field engineering, administration, organization, military law, and hygiene. One of his lecturers was Major Hubert Conway Rees, who had commanded a battalion during the retreat from Mons in 1914. These notes and drawings by Garvin are from a tour of field works that he made as part of the course and that was led by Major Rees. The notes indicate that Garvin learned how to create a loophole in a nine-inch (22.86-centimeter) and in a 14-inch (35.56-centimeter) wall, how to conceal an abattis or field fortification, and the measurements for an effective overhead cover. Major Rees stressed the need to use this knowledge along with common sense, as “trenching” was not an exact science. The DSO after Rees’s name is an abbreviation for Distinguished Service Order, a British military honor.

Map Showing Wet Areas on Passchendaele Front

Overprinted in color in the field, this World War I map shows the Allied front line at the Ypres Salient on December 2, 1917. The notorious Battle of Passchendaele (also seen as Passendale) began in July 1917 and culminated in the capture by British and Canadian forces of the village of Passchendaele (West Flanders, Belgium) on November 6. Even though the battle had ended some weeks earlier, an action took place on the night of December 1−2 in the areas to the north and east of Passchendaele village shown on the map. Apart from the German defenses (in red), the most notable features of the map are the blue-shaded areas. They mark the extensive wet and waterlogged areas facing the front. Exacerbated by poor weather and the devastation of the ground by the intense artillery bombardment, these conditions had hampered the Allied advance. The confused and fluid nature of the terrain was such that the strong blue line marking the front is only an approximation. No further British advances would take place at Passchendaele, and the gains made would be lost to German advances in the following spring.

British Battles During 1918 (8th August to 11th November 1918)

This colorful map was produced by the Geographical Section of the General Staff of the UK War Office, printed by Waterlow & Sons, and made available for public sale shortly after the end of World War I. It provides a summary of the Hundred Days offensive by British, American, and British Empire troops that led to the German surrender on November 11, 1918. It shows the Allied advance as distinctly ordered phases, colored first yellow, then green, red, and blue. Diagonal stripes in these same colors show German withdrawals. The numbers of prisoners and guns (artillery pieces) captured by Allied forces in the different phases of the offensive also are supplied. The language of the map suggests an inevitability to German defeat, in which even withdrawals (such as to the Hindenburg line in February 1917) are depicted as part of the Allied plan. The map contributed to the public’s evaluation of the war and was part of the official justification of the costs of the four-year conflict.

The Bad Child's Book of A.D.C's

The Bad Child’s Book of A.D.C’s is a short manuscript book of ink drawings and verse, probably produced by a British officer working at the General Head Quarters of the British Army in Montreuil Sur Mer, France, in 1917, during World War I. The subjects of the poems and drawings are the aides de camp working at the Allied General Staff. An aide de camp is a military officer who works as personal assistant or secretary to senior army or naval personnel. Among those caricatured was Colonel Alan Fletcher, senior aide de camp to Field Marshall Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force. The author of this satirical work clearly wished to remain anonymous. The back cover of the book features what is ostensibly a view of the author, in uniform, from the rear, with the caption “Back view of the author of this regrettable publication.” It can easily be imagined that this book was passed round to a number of the officers at headquarters and that the author did not want it to fall into the wrong hands or to have his identity discovered.

Chronicles of Cliveden, Volume 1, Issue 1

Chronicles of Cliveden was a journal produced during World War I by the patients at the Duchess of Connaught Canadian Military Hospital in the United Kingdom. The hospital was located at Cliveden, a grand country estate that was the home of Waldorf Astor, the second Viscount Astor, and his wife Nancy. When the war broke out, the Astors offered part of the estate to the Canadian Red Cross, which established the hospital to treat injured Allied soldiers. In the foreword to the first issue of the journal, Colonel W. Langmuir Wait, commandant of the hospital, stated: “Let contributions – in metre or prose,…in snap-shots or black and white, in praise or criticism – pour in as freely as the sunshine does into the Johnny Walker Ward….” The first issue also included a brief letter of welcome by Nancy Astor. The paper published poems, short stories, “Ward Notes” with information about patients and staff, drawings and cartoons, and the schedule of church services and other information. Much of the content was humorous. Businesses, mainly from the nearby town of Maidenhead, ran advertisements that appeared at the beginning and end of the journal. Presented here is the first issue of the journal, dated June 30, 1917, and subtitled Stand Easy. This copy has an embroidered cover, made by patient John Spence during his recovery at the hospital. The journal and the cover were donated to the British Library by descendants of the patient as part of the Europeana 1914−1918 project.