Some of the staff and patients of Exeter’s War Hospitals

Stories of Exeter’s War Hospitals, 1914-1919

Date: 19th September 2017 - 23rd September 2017
Time: Tue, Wed, Fri, 11.00-16.00, Thu 11.00-16.00; Sat 11.00-15.30
Venue: St Stephen’s Church, High Street, Exeter, EX4 3LW
Cost: Free - No need to book

The Stories of Exeter’s War Hospitals, 1914-1919 exhibition, presented by Exeter Local History Society, commemorates and celebrates the magnificent work done in Exeter throughout the First World War to save lives and restore to health many of those injured and damaged by war. During the First World War special ambulance trains arrived regularly at Exeter Queen Street Station (now Exeter Central Station). They brought wounded men from France and Flanders to be treated at the Exeter’s War Hospitals.

The Red Cross opened its first two ‘temporary hospitals’ in Exeter in October 1914 in the West of England Eye Infirmary and the Episcopal Modern Girls School (later Bishop Blackall School) and by February 1915 had more beds available in Exeter than in any other provincial city. By the end of the war over 35,000 patients had been treated in the eight hospitals, which were run by volunteer doctors, nurses and many other staff mainly drawn from the city and nearby villages and towns.

The professional care provided by the staff, led by specialists who also worked at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, saved many lives. Patients expressed their gratitude in the notes they left in the nurses’ autograph albums. ‘No need to worry as to who is going to win when we have such women in England!, wrote one.

Such an enterprise could not have succeeded without the help and support of hundreds of local people who raised funds, grew vegetables, made bandages, knitted socks, lent pianos or gramophones, collected eggs, picked sphagnum moss and put on concerts to entertain the wounded men. The hospitals’ avowed intention was ‘to give to the men in the hospitals everything the public would wish their nearest and dearest to have’.

For further information see or email Julia Neville.