Temporary War Hospital no.5 has been commemorated with a recent unveiling of a plaque at Bradninch Hall, Exeter. Ann Luxton, the great-niece of one of the VAD nurses who served in the hospital unveiled the plaque on 11th September 2018.
The house, once known as The Vineyard, had been converted and extended by the City Council a few years before the war broke out, as a hostel for women students (mainly trainee teachers) at the Royal Albert Memorial College. It was lent by the City Council to the Red Cross when the pressure of casualties in 1915 meant that more hospital beds were urgently needed.
Work to commission this and the buildings next door, down Little Castle Street, as Hospital No 5 took place in the spring of 1915 The building was formally opened on April 30 with Mr Brennan Dyball, a surgeon from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, as the Officer Commanding.
One of the women who came to work here in 1915 was Eva Osborn, who was a member of the housekeeping team, described as being ‘on general duties’. We were pleased to have with us on 11 September, two members from a family who were close friends with Eva, David and Ruth Vooght.
200 beds were initially opened at Hospital No 5, but with the continuing pressure of additional casualties extra beds were needed. In 1917 temporary huts were put up on what had been the hostel’s tennis court to provide extra wards. Bed numbers rose to 258, and the extra beds meant more staff were needed.
It was at this point that a farmer’s daughter from Little Torrington joined the staff as a Red Cross nurse. Her name was May Elliott and she served as a nurse in Hospital No 5 until it closed in July 1919.
You can visit the sites of the Exeter Temporary War Hospitals by using the War Hospitals Town Trail