In 1914 Halloughton Hall was owned by Miss Florence Baker who allowed part of her home to be used as a temporary hospital. It was established as one of the VAD 18 Voluntary Aid Detachments attached to the Warwickshire Branch of the Red Cross Society. In August of 1914 the hospital had thirty beds ready for use but the number was reduced to twenty-five by the November.
The hospital was officially opened on May 21st 1915 and was attached to the 1st Southern General Hospital in Stirchley, Birmingham. Like many other hospitals of its kind around the country, it was a convalescent home where injured soldiers could recover, and by June the hospital was full of patients. Judging by the injuries sustained by soldiers at other hospitals, the four main injuries treated were probably shrapnel wounds, fractures to the pelvis, frostbite and trench foot. Halloughton Hall was reported as not being operational for long and shut in October 1915, yet there is evidence that the hospital was still being used as late as July 1916. Little is known about Halloughton Hall after this time and it is thought to have been demolished during the 1960s.
The soldiers were often treated to outings to help boost their morale and in July 1915 they attended a garden party in Jephson Gardens in Leamington Spa along with over a thousand others. The event was staged by the Navy League and the sun shone after a wet start.
Money was often raised for the hospital at local concerts and in March 1916 there was a Farewell Concert for the 30th Reserve Battalion Royal Fusiliers in the Reform Club at Kingsbury. A series of sketches from Dickens' works and a recitation entitled the 'Crank,' were given by several of the soldiers from the Royal Fusiliers. During one of the intervals a collection was made for cigarettes for the wounded soldiers from Halloughton Hall Hospital who, at this time, comprised men from the 6th Battalion Middlesex Regiment. The following evening a boxing match was arranged at the Club between the 27th Reserve Battalion and 30th Reserve Battalion Royal Fusiliers. There was a large audience, including this time some of Halloughton's wounded soldiers, and another collection was made which was handed over to Lance-Corporal Adams of the Middlesex Regiment who, on behalf of his men, thanked all those who had assisted on their behalf. He further added how well they had been treated everywhere they had been since coming home wounded.
The last record of the hospital in the Tamworth Herald is of a concert held for the wounded soldiers and staff on July 29th 1916 at Kingsbury School. They first had tea and then were treated to the concert given by friends from Birmingham. The public was also admitted and everyone agreed that it was the best concert ever given in the village. Two competitions were held in the school yard with the winners being given prizes. The winner of the bean bag competition, Private Bond won an electric torch and the runner-up, Private Wear won a cigarette case. The winner of the air-gun competition, Lieutenant-Corporal Heffer, won a pocket wallet and the runner-up, Sergeant Dupley, won a fountain pen. As the soldiers left they were presented with a box of fifty cigarettes each. Sergeant Dupley, on behalf of the visitors, thanked the Red Cross ladies of Kingsbury and the C.E.M.S., who arranged the entertainment.
Mabel King was the Nurse Commandant at Halloughton Hall throughout its time as a hospital and her great, great niece Heather Brown has inherited a special ledger book in which Mabel encouraged her patients to record their experiences, feelings and messages. It gives a personal insight into the experiences of the men during a time of very fierce fighting on the Western Front and in the Dardanelles. Some of the Halloughton men fought at Gallipoli and witnessed some atrocious brutality. The ledger also includes photographs of the various hospitals Mabel served in along with staff and patients.
Mabel is pictured right and below she is ringed in what appears to be a photo of the staff at Weddington Hall Auxiliary Hospital, Nuneaton. The Red Cross at Kingsbury frequently sent money to this hospital. The photo of men in a ward is thought to have been taken at Halloughton but also could have been in the hospital at Coleshill Vicarage.
Another nurse at Halloughton was Sarah Jane Hollick seated far right in the photograph below. She was 41 years old when she started work at Halloughton and less than three weeks earlier her husband William, aged fifty, went to France with the Red Cross. Sarah Jane was a mother of six children, the youngest of which was only five. The family lived at Rose Cottage, Shustoke and Sarah Jane also served at Maxstoke Castle.
If you would like to read more about some of the soldiers experiences who fought at Gallipoli, as recorded in Mabel King's ledger, then go to the Dene Valley U3A website at this link, denevalleyu3a.btck.co.uk, where you will be able to access them under 'the Great War in Villages' link.