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Messages from WWI soldiers unearthed

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BerichtGeplaatst: 30 Sep 2009 21:03    Onderwerp: Messages from WWI soldiers unearthed Reageer met quote

A RARE collection of personal messages from World War I troops to their nurse has turned up 90 years after they were written in a South Wales hospital.

The book came to light when it was found among the belongings of the daughter of the nurse the messages were intended for.

Minerva Thomas worked at a Voluntary Aid Development (VAD) hospital on Stanwell Road in Penarth, where she cared for injured troops who had returned from the trenches.

Her daughter, ballet teacher Marguerite Thomas, kept the book in their Victorian-era home. After her death, the rare collection found its way into the hands of a local collector in Penarth, who wishes to remain anonymous.

The collector said: “I couldn’t believe it when I first looked at it. These injured soldiers will all have passed away by now but their messages really bring them to life and make us realise they were not so different to us.

“I have tried to find out which building the hospital was in but so far I haven’t had any luck on that one. It could have been any one of the buildings and sadly no-one is alive to remember it.”

During WWI, more than 2,500 VAD hospitals were set up in schools, churches and homes across the UK. In 1914, 74,000 people volunteered for the service, two thirds of whom were women.

One of the messages in the book, signed on February 7, 1917, by WH Pattison of the 12th Yorkshire Regiment, reads: “We may be trampled on, almost forgotten, but what’s bred in the bone of man will come out in the end.”

A pencil sketch of a dog standing by a fallen soldier in a WWI trench is signed by Sergeant Hulbert on February 2, 1918.

The dates of the messages range from 1916 to 1919 with one of the last, entered on March 6, 1919, saying: “With sincere wishes of kind regard from the boys at 9 ward.”

Cultural historian Peter Finch called the book a rare insight into the lives of injured troops in WWI.

He said: “I have seen a similar thing from Whitchurch hospital in World War I. However, it is rare as there are not many of these around, they certainly don’t turn up all the time.

“The place, like so many of the VAD hospitals, doesn’t exist at all any more, which makes the book even rarer. A lot of the places which became hospitals were regular houses and a lot of them are now forgotten. There were of course an awful lot of injured soldiers returning from the trenches and they all needed to be cared for.”

He added the supply of food also became a big concern for hospitals, which had difficulty feeding their staff as well as their patients.

“Whitchurch had its own farm to provide food for its patients but others weren’t so lucky,” he said.

“They would rely on donations from the local community.”

The collector is hoping to donate the rare collection to a museum in the area.
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