Exeter’s War Hospitals Commemorated

Research, conducted by members of the Exeter Local History Society has uncovered fascinating stories about the buildings, the staff and the patients.  During September 2017 an exhibition was created to share their findings and display a range of medical and nursing equipment. Further information is available here.  A War Hospitals Town Trail showing the location of each of the Temporary War Hospitals is also available.

As a follow-up to this research project, Devon Remembers provided a grant to enable commemorative plaques to be installed at each of the remaining hospital sites.

The first plaque was unveiled on 26 April 2018 at Exeter University’s Reed Hall – the site of Temporary War Hospital no.7.  Councillor Roger Croad, Chair of the Devon Remembers Steering Group and Dr Julia Neville introduced the ceremony, and the official unveiling was carried out by Sir John Michael Kennaway, grandson of Sir John Kennaway of Escot, a former patient (see photo below).

The building, then known as Streatham Hall, was leased to the Army by the Thornton West family for use as soldiers’ billets, however, by 1917 the Army gave it up for use as a hospital, looking after up to 100 patients.  Rooms in the houses were converted into wards and marquees put up in the garden for ‘fresh air’ treatment.

As an establishment for officers, amongst the patients was a young John Kennaway, son of Sir John Kennaway of Escot, who served with the 4th Devons in Mesopotamia during 1916 and 1917 as a Lieutenant and then a Captain.  He fell ill with typhoid fever as so many did due to the insanitary conditions there; medical services, unlike on the Western Front, were primitive and soldiers could spend up to two weeks on boats before reaching any kind of hospital.  After treatment in London, John was sent to Exeter for continuing treatment and convalescence and remained as a patient until he had recovered sufficiently to be discharged.

Further commemorative plaque unveilings are planned for the sites at Bradninch Hall (Hospital no.5) and the Hotel du Vin (Hospital no.1), see the events calendar for information.

For further information about the research or the Exhibition material, please contact j.f.neville@btinternet.com

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