Exeter War Hospitals : Project update

The Exeter War Hospitals project has been accumulating newspaper references to the work of the war hospitals, particularly from the Devon and Exeter Gazette and the Western Times but also from newspapers elsewhere that recorded information about local men being treated in Exeter.

We have started to piece together some of the ways in which the use of the hospitals changed during the war.

By 1916 there was a strong emphasis on rehabilitation through occupational therapy, with soldiers engaged in a range of craft work from basket-weaving to crochet, carving and fretwork. The Western Times reporter who went to the Red Cross exhibition in the Barnfield Hall, Exeter, on 3rd January 1916 referred with some amazement to ‘one plucky Tommy’ who ‘had made a very creditable piece of wool-work by dint of using his teeth and his one sound hand.’ We wonder if any of the articles they made survive in someone’s cupboard somewhere ?

What happened to the wonderful model of No 2 Hospital’s tented ward which was ‘absolutely complete, even to the electric light fittings’ and set out with ‘miniature patients in the red and white beds, miniature nurses, orderlies in khaki and convalescents in hospital blue’. It was made by Trooper C. Winser of Newton Abbot, so maybe someone in the Newton Abbot area knows ?Exeter War Hospital

photograph: Exeter’s War Hospital no.3, the newly build Children’s Home attached to the Workhouse on Heavitree Road.  The building still survives and is used until recently as the Occupational Health Department for the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

Members of the project would like to thank a couple of people who got in touch after our first report appeared on the Devon Remembers website.

First of all, to Joy Wooding of Halberton Local History Society, who told us that the name of Nurse Winifred English from no 4 hospital appears on their village war memorial, and helped us piece together her story. Then, from even further afield, we were contacted by the grandson of Private Geoffrey Atkinson, an Australian soldier who was in hospital in Exeter on Armistice Day itself. We hope to find out more about his background and his hospital stay.


For more information about the project, please email Julia Neville at j.f.neville@btinternet.com