This panel shows the expansion of Mount Felix to the Oatlands estate. In January 1916 five large ward huts made from timber and asbestos panels were built on open land lying to the south of Bridge Street, between Oatlands Drive and the River Thames, increasing the bed capacity to 1,040. The huts, which could each accommodate 40 to 50 patients, were linked to the main buildings north of Bridge Street by a covered walkway and a footbridge. Patients with infectious diseases were kept in a special ward. The hutted area, named Anzac Mount, also contained a cookhouse.
By April 1916 some 3,000 New Zealand casualties were being treated in various British hospitals and, in May, a New Zealand Medical Board was established with a view to setting up further hospitals for New Zealand troops. In August a new hospital opened at Brockenhurst in the New Forest in Hampshire, the No. 1 New Zealand General Hospital. The Hospital at Mount Felix was renamed the No. 2 New Zealand General Hospital.
The Battle of the Somme, which began in July 1916, had greatly increased the need for beds. More huts were built in October 1916, giving 500 extra beds, and the New Zealand Medical Board acquired a large hotel at Oatlands Park, a short distance west of Mount Felix, to increase accommodation. The hotel was converted for hospital use. Mainly amputees, and medical and TB cases, were admitted there.
There were special departments for X-ray, pathology, massage and electrical treatment, as well as for eye injuries and ear, throat and nose disorders. Accommodation had also been made available for 50 officers.
Stitcher: Adrienne Crampton
I chose this panel as it showed the area where I was brought up. I saw the fire at the big house and watched some of the demolition. When the rubble was cleared, my siblings and friends spent many happy hours playing there. Where I lived was roughly where the walkway for Anzac Mount came down on the Mount Felix side, the road called The Ridgeway. It has been so nostalgic sewing this scene and has brought back many happy memories.
I have always sewed. I can remember sitting sewing with my mother even before I started school. I love making gifts for family and friends, for birthdays, Christmas or other special occasions. There are certainly a few projects on the go at one time! Before I started this panel, I started Panel No. 20 and went into St. Georges to tell the students about the project and show them some stitches. I was also involved in No. 10 with Students at RES, and as a result of this have started other sewing projects after school with the students.
This panel acknowledges the dedication of the Plunket Family to Mount Felix: In an article on 9 November 1915, eight members of the Plunket family are described as working at the hospital. Lord Plunkett is at work in his office of the New Zealand War Contingent Association, four daughters are pantry maids in the hospital while his son Terence is an orderly – until he has to go back to school. Lord Plunket’s sister is assistant housekeeper at Mount Felix. The article also confirms that Alexander Grant is among the wounded at this time.
The hut depicted was known as the Lord Plunket Shelter and was used to house recuperating soldiers. It was designed to be able to be moved around the grounds and angled to reach the sunlight, for health benefits.
Stitchers: Stitched Up (Linda Powell, Leslie Tilling, Val Woolford and Michele Barnes)
Linda Powell: This was a very colourful panel to work on. Michelle did most of the flowers.
Michele Barnes: This was the second panel I stitched and my favourite. I especially liked the bold colours and period costume worn by the Plunkett family and the members of their household. The stitches I used in this panel were Satin Stitch and Stem Stitch for the family and servants’ clothes, the bed frame and curtains. The faces were worked in Split Stitch and Back Stitch. And for the flower border I used Flat Stitch. When working on this panel you could not help but reflect on the tragedy or war and how the lives of the family were so affected by it.
Lesley Tilling: This panel is a lovely design and shows Lord Plunket, who had been Governor of New Zealand and was on the committee that set up the hospital, and the mobile hut he designed which allowed the bed-bound soldiers to get the benefit of fresh air. His family and servants were also involved in helping at the hospital. I used stem stitch in this panel.
This panel depicts the marriage of Winifred Alderton, from Terrace Road, and the older Maori soldier, Pita Poi Poi, on 25 May 1916. It’s a complicated story which is detailed elsewhere in the exhibition. They must have known each other only for a short period of time before being married. Pita returned to New Zealand on the hospital ship Marama. Winifred followed a month later on the Remuera. Pita is said to have become a Maori prophet, Winifred must have had some degree of culture shock moving from Walton to NZ, and sadly despite the birth of 4 children, after 5 years of marriage Winifred sought a separation although their divorce was not official for another 17 years.
During the course of stitching this panel we had contact with Nanny Sonja (1916-2016) one of the daughters of the marriage and her descendents. It seems that they knew very little of their history having been placed in a Maori orphanage for their own safety. At the time of writing, there are 265 (check fig) descendents in all from this marriage.
Stitchers: This panel was worked by children aged 8/9 in Kingfisher Class at Ashley Church of England Primary School, under guidance from Royal School of Needlework tutor Heather Lewis and parents Sarah Hedley and Neeta Bhagat.
The panel was chosen for the children to stitch as the fern has lots of lines the children could stitch over. The children enjoyed learning new skills and all about the story behind the panel. Stitches in this panel include chain stitch, stem stitch, long and short, satin, French Knots, bullion knots, back stitch and seeding.
The children who contributed are: Grace Bannister, Myesha Bhagat, Annie Campbell, Lara Carter, Charlie Day, Daniel Elderkin, Talal Faraz, Max Fernandes, Natalia Gorrin, Lucy Hart, Ffion Hedley, Jemima Koe, Lance Lavery, Henry Lowe, Jessie Luswata, Eliza Mills, Isaac Morgan, Aaron Mortimer, Hannah Mukasa, Aidan Murphy McCreath, Thomas Nash, Abigail Nixon, Seth Owen, Joseph Paddon, Daniel Riehl, Nancy Robinson, Anya Sutton, Zachary Sutton, Imogen Thomas
The first soldiers from Gallipoli arrived within days of the hospital opened. They continued to arrived from the conflict on trains into Walton Station. This is an account by an anonymous medical man who attended the first train bringing wounded soldiers from the Somme in the middle of the night in September 1916. At 2.45am the train pulled in…
“In five minutes the waiting room was filled to overflowing with our wounded” wrote a medical man. “I looked at these worn, begrimed, travel-stained men and marvelled. I was looking – looking for something I couldn’t find – for the buoyant, saucy, irrepressible cheerfulness… These men seemed almost strangers. They were so silent, so grim; one felt they had come from the very depths of Hell”
Each of the 95 men on the train was given cocoa and cigarettes. As the conflict wore on, the people of Walton opened a canteen and dished out warm drinks and food the wounded as they arrived in the town.
Stitchers: The Lazy Daisies
This stitcher’s group comprised Betty Lardner, Pam Myers and Wendy Ward working on the panel from April until November. Particularly proud to be involved was Pam who had a family member who was treated at Mount Felix for a sniper’s bullet wound, which he survived. Betty also has connections with New Zealand having lived there for some years. Both Betty and Pam are experienced stitchers.
Wendy has no connections with New Zealand, but has always been a keen needlewoman and felt privileged to be able to make her personal contribution for posterity. She had not encountered narrative embroidery before and this experience was a learning curve for her, and one she thoroughly enjoyed.
All three stitchers are very interested in local history and have learned a great deal about the wonderful part played by the hospital and the local people of Walton-on-Thames.
Sponsor: Pam Myers
Nurses and VaDs tried to keep spirits up on the wards as well as administer medical care. The hospital became known for pioneering work in facial reconstruction and rehabilitation, and there were special departments for X-ray, pathology, massage and electrical treatment, as well as for eye injuries and ear, throat and nose disorders. Some wards were in huts and some were in the building itself.
The Battle of the Somme, which began in July 1916, had greatly increased the need for beds. More huts were built in October 1916, giving 500 extra beds, and the new Zealand Medical Board acquired a large hotel at Oatlands park, a short distance west of Mount Felix, to increase accommodation. The hotel was converted for hospital use. Mainly amputees, and medical and TB cases, were admitted there.
Stitcher: Robbi Robson
I first came to live in Walton over 40 years ago, but have been in Devon for the past 10 years – where I worked on the panel ‘life on the Wards’. I chose it because I worked for the Royal College of nursing as Director of administration, for the last 16 years before my retirement in 2006. The College was formed in 1916, during the First World War, and got its Royal Charter in 1928. So I commemorated the RCn in the top right of the panel and also put the green and white flag of Devon with my initials on the top left. I absolutely loved doing the panel, and being part of the community effort, even from afar.
Crewel work is among my favourite embroidery techniques, although I have never worked in wool before. The size of the panel was certainly a challenge, as was working in isolation since I wasn’t able to travel up to Walton very often.
Sponsor: South West Embroiderers Guild
Edith Popplewell had come to Egypt from New Zealand on the “Maheno” and made a new NZ friend, Lorna, before they embarked from Alexandria for Salonica on the ill fated Marquette in October 1915.
In her letters about this terrible experience, she mentions a valuable cargo and mules on board. She describes how disaster struck on October 23rd when a torpedo hit the Marquette. Initially Edith and Lorna made it to a lifeboat, although there had been difficulty launching them, but they were then thrown into the sea. The Marquette appeared to be tipping right over on top of them. A huge wave washed them away from the boat but they managed to cling to the wreckage, probably saving their lives.
Edith bravely supported her friend Lorna until she died of exhaustion, and Edith was forced to let her go. There were two Nursing Sisters on this wreckage for 8 hours. They were washed towards a lifeboat from a British Mine Sweeper, taken to a Hospital Ship, and from there briefly to Salonica.
Lt. Col. Hugh Acland, who became President of the Standing Medical Board at the No 2 NZ General Hospital, was also on his way from Egypt to Salonica on the Marquette. He too survived a gruelling 7 hours in the water.
Stitchers: Kate Paterson (Christchurch Nurses Chapel, New Zealand), Also Richard Acland, Alistair Acland,Laura Acland (grandsons and great- granddaughter
of Dr Hugh Acland) Anne Rattray and Caroline Smart (both related to Lorna Rattray who perished and possibly the nurse depicted as being held up by Edith Popplewell)
Kate Paterson: I am a registered Nurse. I trained at Christchurch Hospital in the 1970’s. The Nurses Chapel was then part of the main hospital and entry was directly from the main hospital corridor. The Chapel was built to commemorate the New Zealand Nurse that died when the Marquette was torpedoed in the Agean sea. Much debate was held when the ‘new’ hospital was designed, and the Chapel faced demolition. A very strong and forceful lobby saved the Chapel. The earthquakes 5 years ago damaged the Chapel badly and it is unsafe for use at present.
I was asked by the Chapel committee to take part in the Mount Felix project because of my association with the Chapel and the Canterbury Embroiderer’s Guild. My links are Nursing, the Chapel , my grandfather and my love of embroidery. My maternal grandfather Victor Mulligan from Canterbury NZ served in Gallipoli, Egypt and France and survived the war, but did spend time injured and hospitalised.
I have a strong interest in all types of stitch work and find this panel delightful to work with. The historical tragedy it is portraying has been beautifully drawn to show the troop ship, Marquette; the menace of the German submarine and deadly torpedo; the faces of the Nurses who did not survive and Edith Popplewell who did survive. Edith was the only nurse called to give evidence ii the enquiry of the sinking of the Marquette.
The 2nd panel depicting the life of Sister Edith Popplewell follows her to Mount Felix. After serving on the Hospital ship, Braemar and then in a Military Hospital in London, Sister Edith Popplewell comes to Mount Felix where she would have been in charge of a 24 bed ward. She was ultimately awarded a military honour for her bravery.
Stitchers: The New Zealand Women’s Association (London)
The New Zealand Women’s Association chose Sister Edith Popplewell as their panel as they wanted to tell the story of a New Zealand woman who had made a major contribution during World War 1.
Edith Popplewell known by her friends as Poppy was originally stationed in Egypt but in October 1915 she boarded the HMTS Marquette as part of the No 1 NZ Stationary Hospital (1NZSH) bound for Salonika. Unfortunately on 23rd October the ship was hit by a German Torpedo and sank with the loss of many lives. Poppy survived after approximately 8 hours in the water, having tried for many hours to save a friend by holding on to a piece of wreckage. Sadly her friend died before they could be rescued. After returning to nurse in Egypt Poppy was transferred to the UK where she took up her post at the Mount Felix Hospital. Truly a remarkable woman.
The NZWA needlework group was led by Moya Gibbon, a past President and the group of stitchers included Lady Alexandra Smith, wife of the New Zealand High Commissioner, whose grandfather George Morice was treated at the Oatlands Park Section of the No 2 hospital. Most of the stitching on the NZWA panel was done by Alexandra who even took the panel to New Zealand for a month.
The red wool used on Poppy’s sleeves is New Zealand wool purchased in Wellington by Alexandra and embroidered by Jane Thomas, Past President. Other stitchers included Mary Mahoney and Jenny Meagher, also Past Presidents, Dianne Boaden the current President and Chrissie Colbeck.
Sponsor: Specsavers – Walton-on-Thames
Mount Felix with its Georgian building and extensive grounds is shown in idyllic calm. In the foreground rowers from St. George’s College in Weybridge are depicted. The boys used to make regular trips to the hospital to take patients on boating on the river.
Stitchers: St Georges College students assisted by Gill Ager, Ingrid Seymour (Teacher), Esme Vellender, Tara Johnson, Megan Cullen and Nicoletta Burchill (students)
Gill Ager: My thoughts on the project panel I did work on were that it was well designed with plenty going on to give an idea of the activities and general ambience at the time, with plenty of colour in that particular panel. Experienced stitchers would really have enjoyed the opportunity it offered to be creative and imaginative and use a variety of stitches and styles.
I found myself thinking that the New Zealand troops may well have felt at home amongst our green and lush countryside, but that it must have been quite different for the Australians.
On a practical note, I felt the embroidery frame was a little cumbersome and stiff to work with and somewhat impeded progress. However, I realise floor frames are not practical so am not sure what the answer is. I enjoyed participating in the project and very much look forward to seeing the finished display.
Sponsor: St. George’s College
In July 1916 the New Zealand sick and wounded numbered 90 officers and 2352 in other ranks. 200 arrived on a weekly basis. The Somme only added to this 5440 wounded in just 23 days. So that by October there were 4740 wounded New Zealanders. The first contingent of wounded soldiers from the Somme arrived in September. They arrived on trains – see panel 24 for a description of fleets of ambulances waiting at Walton Station to receive 95 men on the first train to bring the Somme wounded to Walton.
Stitchers: Merrian Holland, Laura Murria and Barbara Long (The Riverhouse Hookers Crochet Group contributed a few stitches too)
Merman Holland: Working on this panel was a bittersweet experience. While the actual embroidery and taking part in a community project was great fun, it was hard not to think of how terrible it must have been out in those trenches. It was difficult to fully appreciate the huge number of lives lost and the thousands of wounded soldiers, many of them just boys. As I worked on those boys and they started to form personalities with each stitch of their faces, I couldn’t help but wonder how I’d have felt had it been my son or my husband. As I sewed a strand of my own hair into one of the nurse’s heads, I imagined my life as one of those nurses and all the harrowing things I’d have to deal with, probably often feeling overwhelmed and helpless with the sheer number of wounded and the severity of their injuries.
Andrew Crummy’s design is a sobering reminder of the horrors of war and the cheapness of life. I found myself often thinking of the war, even when not working on the panel and reading up more about it. Once finished, I handed it over with mixed feelings of sadness and pride. I had not done very much embroidery before this panel but it has inspired me to explore the techniques and start a project of my own!
Sponsors: Robin and Sally Sutton
Ward 5 is decorated for a Christmas party in 1916. Wonderful photos of Christmas at Mount Felix exist. From the records we know that at Christmas 1916 was a pretty sumptuous affair. There is a description of the menu: Turkey, fowl, beef and ham, with plum pudding, mince pies, fruits, nuts and sweets, accompanied by a bottle of beer. Also, each of the 1000 patients recuperating at Mount Felix were given gifts by the War Contingent Association. There was also a concert in the afternoon, a Christmas tree, billiards, music by the nurses and the staff entertained the troops with a ‘three-act regular screamer’ entitled ‘A Soldier’s Dream’.
Stitcher: Sharon Taylor
I was delighted to work on the Christmas panel and to personalise it, I copied the commemorative scroll (top right) sent by King George V, to my great-grandmother, on the death of my great-grandfather who was killed in France during WW1. This was particularly poignant, as there is a reference to the King, hidden in one of the garlands.
Another personal touch, is the bar of chocolate (bottom left) – an item I’ve also included as a hidden treat in the Christmas tree flowerpot. I tried to copy an original chocolate wrapper but the lettering was quite difficult to do!
Stitching the figures was fun but tricky, as the patients wearing their striped pyjamas are so small. I also enjoyed researching – checking the correct colours such as the ‘hospital blue’ used for the soldier’s hospital uniform.
Producing this panel has been a real labour of love and one of the wonderful things about working on this project, was the rediscovering of my great-grandfather’s history and the part that he played during WW1.