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Darley Dale, Whitworth Institute Hospital. Staff & Soldiers June 1915

In 1915 part of Whitworth Institute was taken over by the Red Cross to serve as a hospital and the swimming pool was covered over to accommodate patients who were returning from the front in ever increasing numbers. The unit was run by Dr. William Cecil Sharpe and Dr. Marie Orme, who were both the Commandants[1]. They were supported by VADs - Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses - who had been trained by the Red Cross and specialised in the care of wounded soldiers.

Here are a series of three photographs, plus enlarged sections to show who was in the images. They were taken behind the Institute in Whitworth Park.

One of the men was Lance Corporal William Henry Fowkes who arrived to recuperate at Whitworth on 1st June 1915, not long after it had opened. He was then serving with the 1/7th Battalion (the Robin Hood Btn), Sherwood Foresters. He had been gassed in the Ypres battle on 25th May 1915 and was sent back to England on the 31st of that month. He is sitting on the grass in the top picture, on the far right of the front row.

William had been in the Army since 1909, joining the Territorial Force for a period of four years[21]. When he enlisted he was just over 17 years of age and was then a Turner by trade. Like many others he attended various camps before the War. He became a Lance Corporal on 14 Aug 1914 and went to France with the Expeditionary Force on the 8th Feb 1915.

Following his spell in Whitworth he was discharged back to his regiment in Nottingham on 3rd July, which means that all three photographs here were taken between 1 June and 3 July 1915.

Enlargement of LHS of top photo.
Note the crutches and the studs on the soles of the army boots.
None of these soldiers has been identified.
Enlargement of RHS of top photo.
Soldiers and a VAD nurse, probably the senior nurse. One soldier is holding a swagger stick.
Just below the nurse, on her left, is Herbert Valentine Baker.
W. H. Fowkes is in the front row, on the far right.

Second Image and enlargements

Enlargement of LHS of 2nd photo.
William is sitting on the far left of the 2nd row, in front of the nurse.
No other soldier in the group has ben identified.
Enlargement of RHS of 2nd photo.
There are 4 VAD nurses on this side of the picture.
Gunner Herbert Valentine Baker is in the front row, on the far left, next to the
soldier who is wearing a sling. There are a few walking sticks,
but most of the injuries these men had sustained are unseen.

Gunner Baker was in the 12th Company Heavy Artillery Observation Section, Royal Field Artillery. His descendants believe he joined up in 1905 when he was just 18, which was the minimum age. In 1911 he was in the Woolwich Barracks and was to marry in Woolwich the following year[3].

Third Image and enlargements

Surprise visit by the Duchess of Devonshire, 8 June 1915,
who visited the 27 British wounded.

Enlargement of LHS of 3rd photo.
The Duchess of Devonshire is seated on the second row, second from the left, between a nurse
and a soldier. William is standing in the next to back row, 4th from the left of the soldiers.
No other soldier or VAD nurse has been identified.
Enlargement of RHS of 3rd photo.
Unidentified soldiers and several VAD nurses.
Mary Siddal of Darley Dale (later Mrs. Hibbitt) is the VAD nurse on the far right,
third row from the front.
Lady Maud Cavendish, who accompanied her mother, is seated on the second row,
2nd from the right (wearing a dark coat, with a red cross badge).
Dr. Marie Orme is seated in the second row, far left.

William Fowkes was transferred to civil employment with the Raleigh Cycle Co. in Nottingham in late 1915 and was eventually discharged in April 1916 having served with the Territorial Force for 7 years.Herbert Valentine Baker wasn't so lucky. He died of influenza on 1st December 1918; he was in Salonica and was buried in the Micra British Cemetery, Kalamaria, Thessalonika.

If you have any further information about other soldiers, the nurses or the hospital at this time, or if you would like to contact John Bentley with more about William, his wife's grandfather, please email the web mistress. See footer for contact details.

Three photographs of W. H. Fowkes and the Whitworth Institute staff in the collection of, provided by and © John Bentley who also provided information about W. H. Fowkes.
Further information provided by Alan Chapman (Baker) and Sharron Hibbitt (Siddal).
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "Derbyshire Courier", 15 June 1915. Duchess Visits Wounded. Also "Derby Daily Telegraph", 9 June 1915.

[2] Army service records are available on FindMyPast. Not all records have survived.

[3] Gunner Herbert Valentine Baker's service number was 37666. His family have a different image from the ones shown here, but it is too fragile to copy. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Baker and was born in Brighton. He was survived by his wife, their son and his parents who were all of Brighton. With grateful thanks to Alan and Ruby Chapman.

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VAD nurse in the Vernon Lamb Archive

Elizabeth Walton of Warney Mill was a VAD nurse