When the First World War broke out, Acland, who had joined the New Zealand Medical Corps in May 1913, offered his services and was appointed senior surgeon to No 1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital with the rank of major. He was in Egypt until October 1915 when his unit was sent to Salonika in the Marquette. On 23 October, in the Gulf of Salonika, a German submarine sank the ship with heavy loss of life, including 10 New Zealand nurses. Acland was saved after some seven hours in the sea.
For the next five months Acland served in Salonika. He then returned to Egypt from where, in June 1916, he went with his unit to France, in time to assist with the sick and wounded from the battle of the Somme. In 1916 Acland was appointed head of the surgical division of No 1 New Zealand General Hospital at Brockenhurst, England, and consulting surgeon to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
In 1917 a standing medical board was established under Acland’s presidency with headquarters at No 2 New Zealand General Hospital, Walton-on-Thames. Acland was appointed a CMG in 1917 and a CBE in 1919. He was said to have performed some 4,000 operations during the war.
Stitchers: Anne Candler and Rosie Humphrey
Rosie Humphrey: This has been a privilege to be a tiny part of a beautiful tapestry replicating the story of the wounded soldiers during the latter stages of the First World War. It was especially interesting to stitch with Anne who has a New Zealand Heritage as well as the other local ladies who’s embroidery experience and knowledge of the River was most helpful and informative.
Anne Candler: I was asked to pen a few words about my involvement with the Felix Tapestry, but I could write a book. It has been an amazingly, deeply satisfying experience,and I feel truly touched, being one of the community of stitchers. Our panel-Lt. Col. Hugh Acland, not only had a very slow start, but was one of the last panels to be designed. So onwards, Rosie and I stitched, then, it was revved up lots of notches to get finished with 4 other wonderful stitchers.
I felt the story of this panel so much; my connections culturally, historically, all the way up the present day. And because of this, it was easy to pour love into stitching. It is a beautiful panel, wonderful to stitch, and I hope those who come to view the tapestry feel the same.
This panel acknowledges the work of warhorses during WW1. The stables that survive on the Mount Felix footprint are now dwellings. They housed horses such as Bess who is immortalised in a sculpture known as Bess and the Anzac Memorial in New Zealand.
Bess was pictured with trooper McKenzie Clutha, while he was recuperating at Mount Felix after sustaining injuries from a shell in August 1915. McKenzie was the son of the commissioner responsible for the requisition of Mount Felix, and survived the war to return to NZ. Bess was the only warhorse to survive and return home. This panel does not depict Bess, but is a tribute to the many other horses that are not remembered!
Stitchers: Rosemary Burges and Karen Steele
Karen Steele: Rosemary and I were delighted with our finished panel of a war horse, whom we had named named Felix. It was very daunting at first, even mounting the canvas onto its frame was quite a challenge! The panel seemed so vast and empty, but we soon got going and discussed all aspects/stitches as we progressed, becoming more confident all the time.
To get the right movement into the horse’s coat I studied a friend’s horse, also a grey, and hopefully managed to create a realistic coat for him.
We were particularly pleased to have such a colourful piece to work on and enjoyed the variety of trees, buildings, horse, flames and outlines. I was interested in the history and found that the stables shown in our panel still exist in its almost original form, though now converted to flats. I miss the stitching, so I am now keen to do a piece of my own.
As well as tending to their wounds, nurses did much to entertain their patients and make sure they had enough exercise and fun. They organised sports days where they took part in tug of war competitions, egg and spoon races and other events in the grounds.
Stitchers: The Woking Evening Branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild: Marion Brookes, Frances Manz, Jo Bostock, Sue Johnstone, Sue Capon, Mary Johnson, Avril O’Brien
This panel was embroidered by members of Woking evening Branch of the embroiderers’ Guild who were keen to participate in the project having been inspired by ‘The Great Tapestry of Scotland’, made known to us at one of our meetings.
Each embroiderer brought different skills and experiences to the panel, united in a love of stitching, hence the entwining of the logo with needle and thread in the top right hand corner.
We were fascinated by the history of the hospital, having not realised before the link with Walton and the origins of names such as new Zealand Avenue. It transpired that the husband of one of the embroiderers was a new Zealander who was in the Services and, while stitching, her thoughts were of him and his predecessors who were no doubt involved in the war.
When working the panel, stitches were trialled for suitability and texture; the one used for Matron’s dress was an invention to represent the fabric.
One of our difficulties was passing the panel between us as, during the period we had it, ill health and difficulties arose, so we feel not only the life of the figures, but also our own, are stitched in with those strands of wool.
This Panel features Henry Percy Pickerill who specialised in facial reconstruction at Mount Felix. Pickerill was born in England then moved to head up the Dunedin Dental Unit. In march 1917 he established a unit for facial and jaw injuries at Mount Felix. He earned a reputation for 1st class plastic and maxillofacial surgery. Supported by surgeons, dentists, anaesthetists and medical illustrators he pioneered new techniques of tissue transfer and hygiene, as well as new ways to administer anaesthetics. Mount Felix
was renowned for its pioneering work in this field. After the war, Pickerill’s work continued and is used in transgender and cosmetic surgery.
Stitchers: Sew Slow (logo in corner of panel) Thea Rawlins and Marilyn Huckerby
Thea Rawlins: I moved to the UK from Australia in 1978 and settled in Walton over thirty years ago. As an Australasian I became aware of the link between Walton and the care of troops injured in the engagements at Gallipoli. Although I was a total novice at embroidery, I was eager to be part of this fascinating part of Walton’s history.
Marilyn Huckerby: I have lived in Walton for over 30 years and often wondered why there were place names associated with New Zealand. Although I hadn’t done any embroidery since my school days I jumped at the chance to become involved in this community project. The encouragement we were given was marvelous.
During their time at the Hospital, amputees and other soldiers who were unlikely to be able to return to battle were helped towards life after war. They were tought skills in the garden, tending animals, such as rabbits, and they were also given new style prosthetic limbs which were being developed at the time.
Stitchers: The Templemere Team: Shirani Robinson, Annie Henderson- Begg, Minda Alexander, Pam Patterson, Anne Smith, Brenda Boyd,
Jennifer Porter, Sandra Adamson, Kathryn Adamson, Lorna Adamson, Margot Ireland, Al Faux
Novice stitchers like a chain gang, aching backs and fingers sore,
935 in endless split stitch, your house, my house, back and fore.
Internet for stitches research, trips to Oatlands Park Hotel
For historic scenes and knowledge, proved to serve us very well.
Thus our project reached completion, thanks to efforts from our team
And slotted well with other panels. Soldier rehab was our theme.
Now the massive task is over, memories stitched for evermore.
“Gallipoli” has greater meaning than it ever did before.
We have all enjoyed doing this project and are looking for other ways we might continue in sewing together. It has been a wonderful way meet others who are as enthusiastic needlewomen!
Arthur White was an ‘English New Zealander’: He served as a cook after joining the 4th Howitzer Battery. He was born in Leicester 1988 and moved to New Zealand in 1912 with his mother and sister. He returned to England to sign up for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force at Hornchurch in June 1916. However, he was wounded in the thigh in 1917 and underwent three operations at Mount Felix before returning to the Howitzer Battery as a driver taking shells up to the guns.
Stitchers: Sarah Levy, with help from Sarah Brunsden, Nick Rocca, Mel Corkery, Carmen xxxx, Olly Mills.
Sarah Levy: I became involved in this project way back in 2014, when Emily had the idea and we started looking at photos and history on line. We were looking for stories that included locals and the patients from the hospital. Arthur White was one of the first characters we found and so I feel particularly attached to his story.
The idea was that the project would include lots of different people from different places with a big range of skills. I have always made things, so although I had not embroidered since I was about 12, I thought I’d have a go. I found the embroidery a fairly relaxing (if slow) process. I was pleased to be able to include other participants and be part of such a big community project.
As part of their rehabilitation New Zealand soldiers stitched a memorial banner which honoured 19 New Zealand soldiers who died during the First World War, and were buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s Church, Walton-on-Thames. The Banner used to be carried on Anzac Day but is now thought to be in the Museum of New Zealand.
Colonel C M Begg
Private M A Baker
Private F R Black
Rifleman R G Blinko
Private J L Boyd
Sergeant J B Dalton
Sapper J Fleming
Private W Fox
Driver A H Hall
Private K Hamana
Corporal T H Hudson
Private W O McDiarmid
Corporal T W Phillips
Private J L Porter
Private W H Rishworth
Rifleman E Rout
Driver W H Russell
Private R Wairau
Captain C K Ward
Miss W A Bennett (a nurse who served at the hospital)
Stitchers: Soldiers recuperating from injuries at Headley Court stitched this panel with help from Carol Reid and Eileen Phelps. The stitchers were: Rifleman Michael Keighley, Corporal Daniel Phillips, Signalman Joshua Davies, Lance Corporal Ben Hague, Private Abby Carter, Lance Corporal Jon Howe, Private Liam Brown, Recreational Therapist Claire McKee
Working on the Mount Felix tapestry has been a very enjoyable and worthwhile exercise for the patients at Headley Court. One of the patients with extreme injuries to his legs and hands from an explosion in Afghanistan said it was a relaxing pastime, and put himself forward to work on the piece.
It gave the Recreational Therapy programme a fulfilling and enjoyable activity that engaged a surprisingly diverse group of patients. All the patients who worked on the tapestry did so out of their own volition and were pleased at the result. Not only was it a fantastic recreational activity, it had great therapeutic effect on hand movement and mental relaxation.
Carol Reid and Eileen Phelps: We felt it was an honour to be able to help these convalescing soldiers from recent conflicts to achieve this finished commemorative panel.
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.
St Mary’s Church is in Church St, and there is an Anzac Day remembrance service and parade every year. There are 21 names remembered from WW1 on the inside, and in the cemetery there is a monument with more names from both wars engraved. Many higher ranked soldiers who died here were repatriated. So the numbers of those who died at Mount Felix are higher than this list suggests.
Stitcher: Rebecca Smith
I was inspired to do this tapestry after a talk by Andrew Crummy, the artist. I was already involved with a panel with Molesey WI but was enjoying it so much I fancied doing one on my own.
I chose this panel because my husband works for a funeral company (Paynes) and they hold records going back to WWI, not only of their own but of another company as well. Part of his job is looking through the archives for people searching for where their loved ones are interred. He has been looking to see if they hold any records relating to Mount Felix, but so far no luck.
I have never done anything like this before and have really enjoyed doing this panel, and have found it very therapeutic.
Cecil Hepworth and one of the first screen stars, Alma Taylor, hosted a Garden party in ashley park for ANZAC wounded. Throughout their time at Mount Felix local people entertained the soldiers with trips to the theatre, special screenings of movies and various tea parties. The local bicycle shop provided rickshaws to take soldiers around the town.
Stitchers: Nicola Lindsey, Jill Witham and Mary Pink. Nicola is the project manager for the Mount Felix Tapestry, and has been at the forefront of this community effort from the start. Jill Witham is Riverhouse Arts Centre Box Office Manager (the largest of the volunteer roles at Riverhouse) and has many creative talents. However she too felt that she needed support for this project and teamed up with Mary and Nicola for this panel. Andrew Crummy himself put in some stitches into this panel. This is the first time he has been persuaded to stitch himself!
Nicola Lindsey: Although lacking in confidence as a stitcher myself, I felt that I would like to have a go, with a little help from Mary, who had already taken on two solo panels.
Jill Witham: I have always been interested in embroidery and tapestry, and enjoyed my involvement in this fascinating community project.
Sponsor: Gill Witham
Edith Knapman and Randal Borthwick Browne were married 2 March 1918 in Hersham Parish Church, and set off for a new life in New Zealand. He and Edith went on to have 6 children – in order of birth Colin, Betty, Thomas, Randal, Douglas and Judy. The 4 eldest served in the Second World War. Edith was a redoubtable character and lived to her 90th year, always a strong presence in the local community. Four of their children are still alive.
Sponsor: The Browne Family – we were lucky that several of their family made contact with us through this process and even sponsored the panel. They have also provided some wonderful photographs and insights into their lives. Several made it to Walton and put the first stitches into the panel before we handed it over to Claremont Fan Court School to take over.
Joanna Browne (Grand-daughter): The chance discovery via the internet that Randal and Edith were featuring in the stories being told by the Mt Felix Tapestry, has given our large extended family in New Zealand a great thrill. We all heard the stories over the years of how they met, fell in love and married during their war service. To have that commemorated through this community project means a great deal to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Comment from Amy and Viv who put the first stitches in (Grand daughter and Great Grand daughter of Edith and Randall)
Stitchers: Claremont Fan Court School
Staff: Robin Harrigan, Linda Braithwaite, Leah Johnson, Helen Crosby, Sylvie Corbett, Francesca Simpson, Anthony Booth and Matt Lindon.
Students: Daisy Newton, Nathan Judd, Kyoungju Park, Thomas Hutchinson, Callum Baker, Jessica Penn, Oliver Coppellotti, Joe Breuer, Jordan Loty, Tom Thornton, Jessica Foster, Aine Cumming, Lewis Childs, Joe Seabrook (lead stitcher), Ollie Treherne, Asa King, George Riddler, Freya Lambrecht and Monty Dale-Thomas.
For the past 8 months, pupils and staff at Claremont Fan Court School have been quietly stitching away on our panel of the Mount Felix Tapestry, titled ‘A Dynasty is formed’. It depicts the wedding of Randal, a NZ soldier and Edith, an English voluntary nurse. They went on to have 6 children, 2 of which had family that came to visit us at the school to add their own stiches to the tapestry. Some of them came from as far away as Auckland, New Zealand!
We had a total of over 20 pupils and take part over the course of the project as well as a number of staff. A particular shout out goes to our Joe Seabrook, who attended craft club every week and became our lead stitcher on the project, teaching others how to embroider and where to stitch.
We have all had a lovely time being part of this fantastic initiative and are so proud that we can say we have placed our mark on such an important part of local, and indeed global, history.