Death & Absence
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Death & Absence pt 1 – memories of coping with the absence of men and the death of loved ones and friends during the First World War.
Between August 1914 and November 1918 some 9,284 men from the borough and county of Leicester died in the war. Many died later as a result of the war or were permanently disabled, mentally or physically. 12,000 or more Leicestershire soldiers died during, or just after, the war.
The Reverend A. Linwood Wright, vicar of St Mark’s Church, Belgrave, reported in the Leicester Pioneer on 4th June 1920 that fifty percent of the fathers in his parish had been killed in the war. One battle that is remembered for its effect on the local regiment is that of the Hohenzollern Redoubt in 1915.
Death & Absence pt 2 – memories of father visiting on leave, mother reacting to news of his death in France, coping at school; local vicar sending packages to prisoners of war, husband having shrapnel removed; visiting father’s grave.
Hospitals - memories of troops arriving in Leicester, seeing wounded soldiers, visiting the 5th Northern General Hospital.
The University of Leicester's main administration building, now known as the Fielding Johnson Building, had been constructed in 1837 as the Leicestershire Lunatic Asylum but became empty in 1908 after patients and staff transferred to a new asylum in Narborough which had opened the previous year. In 1911 the empty County Asylum building was identified by Medical Officers from the Territorial Force or TF (predecessor to the TA) as a suitable location for a military hospital, should the need arise. Three years later that need did arise and the building was designated as the base for a TF medical unit, the 5th Northern General Hospital. Outbuildings were demolished and replaced with four long, flat-roofed brick huts to house officers while nurses and medical staff had rooms in the main building. Modern documents often assume that ‘the 5th Northern General Hospital’ referred just to the building itself but it was actually a unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps within the TF. (Quoted from the University's website - see the links below)
The full lyrics of the song about cigarettes, 'Little Billy's Wild Woodbines', is on the monologues.co.uk website . During the course of the war, the Leicester & Leicestershire War Hospitals Committee distributed 12,354 lbs of tobacco and nearly 12,000,000 cigarettes.
BBC WW1 at Home 'Brooksby Hall, Leicestershire: Naval Hospital and an Admiral's Home' - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01ws9m7
BBC WW1 at Home 'University of Leicester, Leicester: Field Hospital Turns Memorial' - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01sl8yg
The history of the 5th Northern General Hospital (My Leicestershire History website) - http://specialcollections.le.ac.uk/cdm/ref/collection/p16445coll9/id/433
The University of Leicester was a hospital during WW1 - http://www2.le.ac.uk/institution/ww1
BBC 'How did WW1 change the way we treat injuries today?' - http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zs3wpv4