The Great War 1914- 1918

During the Great War the boys’ and girls’ schools were converted to the headquarters of the Fifth Southern General Hospital to provide for wounded servicemen including, in the early part of the war, German soldiers.  In the Information Resource Centre there is a panoramic photograph of the large staff contingent of the hospital in the familiar military and nurses’ uniforms of the period.  On the wall of the Head’s room, next to the picture of Miss Hitchcock, there is a certificate signed by Winston S Churchill, then War Minister, which commemorates the use of the school as a hospital.  To free the school buildings, conveniently near Fratton Station, the boy and girl pupils were based for the duration of the war in Lyndhurst Road School.

John Sadden’s book Keep The Home Fires Burning contains vivid descriptions, and some photographs, of the use of the school as a hospital.  One of the photographs shows the arrival of some of the first wounded soldiers at the front door of the school in Fawcett Road.  It shows a crowd of onlookers as the horse-drawn ambulance unloads the patients.  The wounded men were generally deposited at Fratton Station to be transported by hand-carts and stretchers, as well as by ambulance, along Fawcett Road to the school.
In 1996, a ninety-six year old correspondent, Mrs Lee, recalled that she had worked at the hospital in 1918 as a clerical officer in the doctors’ boardroom.  Wounded soldiers arrived at Fratton Station in convoys, to be transported to the school.  The more seriously wounded were accommodated in the classrooms around the hall, which served as the main ward.  The nurses made them comfortable and the clerical staff then went round taking details.  Periodically, the doctors’ board decided the fate of individual survivors: whether they should be transferred to convalescent homes or, if unfortunate, sent back to the front.

As the war continued, the space between beds steadily diminished while the number of converted classrooms multiplied.  By 1916 the provision of 500 beds had been doubled.

The first soldiers to die at the hospital were buried with full military honours at Highland Road cemetery.  Eventually the numbers dying became so large that the formalities were largely dispensed with.  After the war, the buildings were returned to their original use as schools.

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