To be true to the story of the wounded soldiers in the Hospital we had to represent the horrors of trench warfare. As in France, the Gallipoli Campaign was conducted in a network of trenches. ANZACs endured extremes of temperature, torrential rain, lack of fresh water and all the dangers and appalling conditions of trench warfare. It is hardly surprising that so many soldiers succumbed to illness.
Stitchers: Stitched Up (Linda Powell, Leslie Tilling, Val Woolford and Michele Barnes)
Linda Powell: Our group of four met once a fortnight at Riverhouse to chat about lprogress and any issues we may have with the tapestry. We called our group ‘Stitched Up’ as stitching brought the four of us together and we continue to meet. We chose the colours and each of us took it in turns to take the panel home to work on.
I have always been interested in embroidery and tapestry (I worked my first tapestry at the age of 12 and have been hooked ever since) and have enjoyed my involvement in this fascinating community project.
The Galllipoli Trench Warfare was the first panel I worked on – the flames were fun to embroider.
Val Woolford: I joined the Mount Felix tapestry project because I was interested in the local history and I wanted to do some embroidery. When we nervously started on the panels I was very grateful for the support of my team, Stitched Up, and we quickly grew in confidence. I loved the flowing lines of Andrew’s designs and enjoyed using the colours he had chosen. I am delighted with our finished work and proud of the project which has been so successful.
Lesley Tilling: My family moved to 23 Rivermount in 1969 when I was nine years old, and I can just remember that there was a building at Mount Felix – or part of a building. Later, my brothers and I played on the site where Mount Felix had been demolished, which was accessed through Rivermount. It was a large scrubby ground patched with areas of concrete, with intriguing piles of abandoned tinned goods, the flat area perfect for our games of football, cricket, sliding down the hill amongst the trees, catching frogs and toads and so forth. I knew the old Mount Felix had been a military hospital.
This project has prompted me to look at old photographs and imagine the site as it was for the soldiers and nurses from New Zealand. I am pleased that we could offer them such a beautiful place to recuperate from the horrors of war, and I particularly like to think that they enjoyed punting and skiffing and found the riverside peace and beauty brought them health.
I am not very experienced at embroidery, although I have followed some kits and enjoy them, so I asked to be put in a group with more skilled needlewomen. I have really enjoyed our fortnightly meetings, when we chose our colours and pass the tapestry over. I enjoyed working on the barbed wire, and the wood of the trench supports. We have another panel to work on (the Barn Panel) and we are all keen to use a range of attractive and harmonious colours.
Michelle Barnes: This was the first panel I worked on and it depicts the horror of this historic battle. The stitches I used in this panel were Chain Stitch for the sand, Satin Stitch and Stem Stitch for the guns, gunfire and soldiers’ uniforms, French Knots for the flies and Split Stitch for the soldiers’ faces and barbed wire. Despite the tragic subject of this panel I enjoyed the challenge of how best to represent in stitch this historic battle scene.
The numbers of wounded soldiers were rising and the terrible losses at Gallipoli meant that there was a real urgency to secure hospitals away from the battlefield.
The New Zealand War Contingent led by the NZ High Commissioner, Sir Thomas Mackenzie, Lord Plunkett, a previous High Commissioner and Lady Islington, Head of the Ladies Committee, secured Mount Felix to create a hospital for NZ soldiers (later known as the No2 NZ General Hospital). Urgency was such that they had but a few months to raise money to equip the building to be a fully functioning hospital and get it ready to receive its first patients.
Stitcher: Wendy Stacey
As the ‘stitcher’ of this panel, I would like to describe how enjoyable and satisfying this work has been. Over three years ago I retired from my business of 25 years, making theatrical costumes, and found being retrired one of the most difficult things I’ve faced in my life. Through ‘thick and thin’ most aspects of life have set procedures, but no-one taught me how to sit still and relax.
Having been one of the original helpers at the beginning of the transformation of the old barn in Walton into the Riverhouse Barn Arts Centre, I attend many functions and it was there that I noticed a ‘call for stitchers’ to help with the Mount Felix project.
The moving story of the wounded soldiers from Gallipoli being brought to Mt Felix for life saving and healing treatment being ‘told’ with these delightful tapestries is inspirational.
It is an honour to have been involved in such a brilliant project and I have been lucky enough to be allowed to take panel 12 home and have at last learnt to sit still and relax whilst doing the tapestry.
The Maheno and Marama were the poster ships of New Zealand’s First World War effort. Until 1915 these steamers had carried passengers across the Tasman for the Union Steam Ship Company, but as casualties mounted at Gallipoli, the government pressed them into service as hospital ships.
With the encouragement of the Governor, Lord Liverpool, a massive public fundraising effort helped ensure the ships were fitted out in good time and to the highest standards. Officially known as His Majesty’s New Zealand Hospital Ship (HMNZHS) No. 1 and No. 2, these state-of-the-art floating hospitals were crewed by a mixture of civilian seafarers and army medical staff, including nurses.
During the Gallipoli Campaign the Maheno carried thousands of wounded soldiers from Anzac Cove to the nearby Greek islands of Lemnos and Imbros. The Marama entered service just after the Allied evacuation from Gallipoli. For the rest of the war – apart from a series of frantic dashes across the English Channel during the Battle of the Somme – both ships were tasked with carrying the seriously wounded from the Western Front on the long haul back to New Zealand.By the war’s end these distinctively marked ‘white ships’ had transported 47,000 patients.
Stitchers: Lisa Cook, Anne Thomson supported by Eileen Phelps.
Lisa Cook: An old friend of mine who lives in Walton on Thames told me about the Riverhouse Project article asking for stitchers, I applied and was given ‘Hospital Ships’, along with an introduction to my sewing ‘buddy’ Anne. I have always stitched and am very interested in historical pieces so it was perfect.
On getting the panel, my excitement wained a bit seeing the size of it and I found it a little daunting but as I got started, my confidence grew, the shapes and pictures came to life and it started to look really good. Anne and I had not met each other before and it has been lovely to meet a fellow stitcher and neighbour through our quick chats on the door step as we handed over for a week or two at a time.
I am very proud to have been involved in such a wonderful project to commemorate Mount Felix during WW1, and to work on a panel created by Andrew Crummy, the piece I was given being even more pertinent, as I trained as a nurse in the Middlesex Hosp, London from 1979.
Anne Thomson: I became aware of the Mount Felix project through an article in our local newspaper. I had no hesitation in putting my name forward to join as a keen stitcher It was some time before I heard that I had been invited on to the project. I had suffered a personal trauma, so the timing was just right and the sewing therapeutic.
My sewing buddy Lisa was a joy to work along side, we had a joint positive attitude that we could catch up if we missed a day or two of sewing this resulted in some long days and late nights. Why does the wool continue to knot when you especially tired and my party piece was sewing the panel to the cushion twice on which it was resting on.
Sewing the panel became quite thought provoking and quite impossible to begin to imagine what the troops went through during such an awful conflict. Bravo to the floating medical team.
Thank you Andrew for creating such a wonderful project for stitchers of all levels and it was such a joy to be involved. A stitched picture tells a story.
Sponsor: Cherry eddy
After a huge effort fundraising and refitting Mount Felix as well as recruiting staff, on 26 July 1915 – No. 2 New Zealand General Hospital opened for business. The first patients from Gallipoli arrived just two days after it opened. This panel depicts a nurse welcoming patients at the gate.
At this stage Mount Felix had 350 beds and an operating theatre. The project was largely financed by New Zealanders living in Britain, donations from abroad and the New Zealand War Contingent.
Stitchers: Janet McDonagh and The Mount Felix Dwellers.
Janet McDonagh: I leafleted all residents, within the original Mount Felix boundary wall, with an invitation to stitch into the panel in a few ‘open house’ stitch sessions at my home (part of the original stable block). There have been 16 ‘dwellers’ working on the panel, some adding the outlining, leaf detail and/or their postcode to the left of the panel. Some stitchers took the panel home and worked on larger detailed areas. We all had great fun putting the stitches in and relaying stories of the history of the Mount Felix Estate, everyone enjoyed the project immensely and some have been inspired to carry on stitch projects of their own.
We added extra detail to Andrew Crummy’s design: a gate key found whilst digging in my garden; a sprig of Mulberry representing the tree in my neighbours garden; lime bricks that formed all the pathways and some of the internal flooring on the estate; an Anzac button, two of which were found in a neighbour’s gardens.
Interestingly all the original buildings have a climbing rose named ‘compassion’ planted in the garden. We didn’t add this detail as we believe they were planted some time after WW1 but no doubt they are symbolic and planted in memory of when the buildings were used as a hospital.
Many of the stitchers had not done any sewing since their school days but thoroughly enjoyed ‘making their mark’. The panel gave me the opportunity to do some traditional stitching, I enjoyed working with ‘crewel’ wool on canvas. I have met and made friends with some wonderful neighbors and I feel very privileged to have been involved with the project. We are all keen to see the 44 panels on display and follow its journey to its final permanent home.
Thank you Emily, Andrew, Nicola, Mary and Linda……you’ve encouraged us to learn a little bit of the history of where we live, immortalised in stitch……. and we loved it! A great community project!………
Sponsor: Simon Holdings
Money to kit out the new hospital was raised in many different ways.. in this panel, the Ladies’ Committee is shown knitting. These Ladies provided: 50 pairs of bed socks; 119 pyjamas; 466 shirts;134 dressing gowns.They also prepared kit bags for arriving soldiers that held a razor, strop, shaving brush, shaving stick, toothpaste and toothbrush, mirror, comb, handkerchief and socks.
More money was raised by ladies at home in New Zealand making friendship quilts. Two examples of these quilts feature in a later panel.
Stitchers: Dorothy Hulatt and Angela McDiarmid
Angela McDiarmid: After having met and chatted to the three ladies in The Heart last Summer and invited to add a few stitches, I instantly became ‘hooked’ and agreed to become a ‘stitcher’ on this exciting project.
Not having done any embroidery for many,many years and certainly not being very experienced, I just loved working with chain and slip stitch in all the different colours and undertook ( with my stitching partner, Dorothy), to do mostly all the draping leaves around the panel!
I am looking forward to seeing the completed tapestry and recalling all the thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing hours spent stitching.
Dorothy Hulatt: These ladies turned out to be making not only things to sell and raise money, but also clothes and (at the top) blankets for the soldiers.
I have been embroidering for 80 years but this was my biggest undertaking. I have loved doing it. The stitches we used are very simple but very time-consuming; sewing a scarf in tiny chain stitch took as long as it would have taken me to knit a real scarf.
We used 2 different makes of frame for this panel. When I helped with a second panel I used a third type of frame. It was interesting to find how differently the frame affects the method of work and the outcome.
Sponsor: Sue Palmer
The King, Queen and Prince of Wales visit Mount Felix and speak with every wounded soldier. They also expressed their admiration for the work that the NZ association had done in equipping and establishing the hospital in Walton.
Stitcher: Eileen Phelps (2nd panel)
I enjoyed working on the first panel so much that I felt quite at a loss when it was over. I find it’s an easy thing to do while watching the (very poor) television during the winter months.
I picked the 2nd panel to work on because it had lots of colour and no gore. The King’s beard was a bit of challenge having seen three different photos and images of the King. So I went for a mixtgure of all 3 images… in other words a greying reddish beard. I felt that it was appropriate to put a bit of gold thread on the King’s Hat, because he was the King after all! I think it offsets the crewel wool nicely.
This was a challenging project, but thoroughly enjoyable.
Volunteer Nurses from New Zealand are believed to have been billeted in Old Manor House on Manor Road. The family of Ruth Rosewell, who married Alexander Grant, and who owned Rosewell’s boatyard are said to have had control of (possibly owned) the building at that time. Nurses billeted there may have included Edith Popplewell, whose story we follow later and many other nurses from New Zealand. Other local VADs, like Edith Knapman, who married Randal Borthwick Browne, would have stayed at home.
Sponsored and Stitched by Molesey WI: This panel was worked by members of the Molesey Women’s Institute (3 miles from Walton). We got involved with the project when we had a talk about the Mount Felix Hospital. Many of us had been unaware of this part of our history and thus became inspired to attempt a panel.
We formed a Stitchers’ Group and had a couple of meetings to discuss colours, stitches, methods etc. We worked in small groups or singly depending on how confident we were. Very few of us were expert stitchers, some had more experience than others, some having never embroidered before.
Sponsor: Molesey Women’s Institute
The Times, Thursday, Oct 07, 1915; pg. 5; col E News in Brief: Lance-Corporal Alexander Grant, a New Zealand international footballer and a member of the New Zealand Contingent, was married yesterday to Miss Rosewell, of Shepperton. Mr Grant was wounded at Gaba Tepe, and was sent home to Mount Felix Hospital, Walton-on-Thames. There he met Miss Rosewell. Their courtship began over an ivy-clad wall, and all the New Zealand soldiers attending the wedding wore an ivy leaf. Private A.W. Smith, who has played with Grant in international football, and who was also wounded in Gallipoli, was best man. The bridegroom has been passed for home service during the war.
Research revealed that Alexander Grant was also a rower, and a rugby player to a professional standard. The rowing may have been the way that Ruth Rosewell and he met, since her family owned the boatyard.
Stitchers: The Tuesday Stitchers – Pam Pinkett, Lindsay Bull, Carol Reid, Tracy Caldwell and Rosie Humphrey
Our group met at a Riverhouse Barn Embroidery class on Tuesdays to stitch a ‘calico garden’. After this most enjoyable class we wanted to continue meeting and learning together, which we have done for the last 3 years.
Emily asked if we would like to participate in the Mount Felix project and with great trepidation, we accepted. As a mixture of novice and experienced stitchers we have all found this a challenging and rewarding task. Some of us went on to work on other panels helping others complete theirs.
Sponsors: St Mary’s Church Stitchers, Mr and Mrs Burnett, Sue walton, Linda Deane
This panel depicts St Mary’s Church in Walton on Thames, where the dead from Mount Felix were laid to rest. The Church holds an Anzac Day Service every year in honour of the NZ soldiers who gave their lives in service during WWI.
The first funeral was of a badly injured soldier suffering from multiple shrapnel injuries in October 1915. There are photos of a funeral in 1917 showing the body being brought in horse drawn carriage with full military honours before being buried in the Cemetery.
There is a plaque with 21 names of NZ soldiers, nurses and servicemen who died during WW1 at the church. There is also a New Zealand Flag at the back of the Church which given by the People of NZ. In the Cemetery there is another memorial to New Zealanders who have died in service.
The Bell Tower Ringing chamber in the church is decorated with the bark from a very rare tree from New Zealand Rimu Veneer (also called Red Pine). This was given to the people of Walton on Thames by NZ to decorate Walton Council Chambers (now B&Q). When this was relocated to Esher Council before it was demolished the church was offered the bark tiling.
Stitchers: Our stitchers, who put in a total of 278 hours were Georgina Graham, Hilary Brooks, Elizabeth Caines, Anne Chipperfield, Carol Collings, Janet Hope-Smith, Carol Lewin, Heather Lewis, Dawn May, Margaret Nixon and Ann Rofe. Our unexpected stitchers were Chris Chipperfield and our new Vicars Cathy and Jonny Blair.
St Mary’s has always held an ANZAC Remembrance Service on April 25th so it was with great pleasure that we embroidered this panel and included the poppy in the top box.
The ladies who stitched all have close associations with St Mary’s and all love our 1500 year old church with its multitude of building styles; so it was a challenge to get the texture right and retain the look of the building. The flints seemed to take forever and the Tudor brickwork was particularly difficult but we are very pleased with the eventual effect. The embroidery has brought us closer together and we have formed good friendships.
Sponsors: St. Mary’s Church Stitchers, Mr and Mrs Burnett, Sue Walton, Linda Deane
Soldiers convalescing at Mount Felix were taken to the hearts of the people of Walton. Turners Cycle Shop used to lend patients rickshaws. Locals and soldiers would cycle the more severely wounded around leafy Walton to take the air. There were also river trips to Windsor and local rowers would take the soldiers boating.
There were two ladies Misses Beeton and Bayliss who invited NZ soldiers to tea and cake while they were convalescing. They continued to do this throughout the war.
A New Zealnd sheep farmer used his old stage coach to take parties of soldiers on Theatre trips to London. The Savoy Hotel provided afternoon concerts, and theatre companies from London would entertain the troops as well as concert parties from New Zealand. The local cinemas did special screenings and the soldiers became regulars at pubs (such as one that later became known as the Kiwi).
In a later panel Cecil Hepworth and Alma Taylor (screen icon) are depicted at a Garden Party they threw at Ashley Park.
The wounded also did their bit for Walton, Coporals Reid and Monrad are said to have jumped into the river to save the lives of two children despite not being swimmers themselves.
Stitchers: 312 members of the community stitched this panel. Across the summer we took this piece to local venues, to talk about the project and to encourage even non-stitchers to add to the community effort. Since this panel tells the story of how the community supported the soldiers all those years ago, it seemed a particularly appropriate one to share.
We called this element of the project ‘Just one stitch’ and a range of people of all ages and abilities took up the challenge in a range of local venues from libraries, the shopping centre, a coffee shop, the day centre and even a badminton club. Although many tentative stitchers said “Well, you can always take my work out later”, we absolutely didn’t, and all 312 people who took part contributed to a community effort of which everyone can be proud.