Priory Post 69 – Unsung Heroes of WWI….

Posted: 25th August 2015

Unsung Heroes of WWI….

From a home to a hospital

In another of our articles on Unsung Heroes of World War I, we would like to thank Serena and Jemima Gray (Lower VA and Lower VI) for sending us this article on their extraordinary great great grandparents and their great great grandmother’s determination and resolve to help the wounded.

‘Our Great Great Grandparents Robert and Louise Emmet were Americans who came to England with their children in 1900.  When war broke out in August 1914 they held a family meeting with their three sons to decide whether to go back to America or stay in England.  The youngest son voted first and the parents last.  It was a unanimous decision to stay in England and fight for their adopted country.  Grandpa Emmet went to join the British Army only to be told that since he was an American citizen, he was unable to!  He was a man of integrity and having voted to stay and fight, he renounced his American citizenship (much to the displeasure of the American Ambassador!), became a British citizen and joined the British Army.  Meanwhile, his wife Louise Emmet turned Moreton Paddox, their large country house, into a hospital for wounded soldiers, funded partly with help from local businesses and the balance at her own expense.

Gran Emmet recruited and trained eight nurses, six assistants and a number of other part-time volunteers to look after fifty beds in eight wards.  She converted the children’s playroom into a fully fitted operating theatre, a room in the basement was turned into a washroom for the patients and she procured a fully fitted ambulance.  The Leamington Courier reported that “…local firms had helped with the expenses including the linen company providing free beds to equip the hospital and also put at the disposal of Mrs Emmet, five motor vans… to convey the wounded to and from the Paddox.”.

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This is a photograph of Louise Emmet with her daughter, Aileen, Jemima and Serena’s Great Grandmother, who married Lt HA Campbell (see Priory Post, 7 November 2014)

Gran Emmet made herself familiar with all the forms and regulations of the War Office for military hospitals so that she could assume the position of House Governor and run the hospital which was only natural since she was effectively paying for it.  She and the hospital passed an inspection and the hospital was accepted by the War Office.  The first wounded to arrive were Belgians, some of whom kept in touch with the Emmets after the war, so grateful were they of the kind treatment that they had received at Moreton Paddox.

A press cutting records the experience of one young wounded soldier’s experience at Gran Emmet’s hospital: “Private Walter Sales of 2nd North Staffordshire Regiment was wounded in the thigh at the battle of the Aisne.  After treatment at a hospital in Boulogne, he spent many weeks in an improvised hospital at Moreton Morrell in Warwickshire.   The spacious dining and drawing rooms being placed at their disposal.  Twice a week they were taken on motor drives.  A Leamington medical gentleman acted as consulting doctor and visits were made by the doctors from Stratford-on-Avon.”

It can’t have been easy for Gran Emmet to deal with wounded soldiers while her brother, her husband and their three sons were in uniform.  Her brother and her two sons served with the Life Guards.  Sadly her oldest son died of a botched operation to remove his appendix when he actually had Para-typhoid, a disease unknown at the time; their third son served in the Royal Navy as a Midshipman.

When her husband came home after the war he noted that “The conduct of the soldiers was admirable under Louise’s strict discipline and to everyone’s surprise, not one had carved their initials or a bleeding heart in any of the oak panels in the house.”   When the hospital closed, Louise Emmet received a citation from the War Office expressing “…the highest commendation and most appreciative thanks.”’

 

If you would like to share your family’s memories of World War I at Priory Post (on the App and on the website) we are running a series of articles on ‘The Unsung Heroes of World War I’ with articles on World War I seen through the history of our pupils’ families.

We welcome all memories, whether of home, of holidays, of school, of work, of schoolchildren or of soldiers.  We would love to hear stories from all families, from all parts of the world.

If you have a story you would like to share, please send it in either to me (mking@saintaugustinespriory.org) or to Priory Post: priorypost@saintaugustinespriory.org

No story is ordinary but every story is extraordinary!

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