West Bilney

Red Cross hospital

Red Cross Hospital at Bilney. (From a newspaper report)

The photograph (by Mr E Matthews, 100 Norfolk Street, Lynn) shows the Red Cross hospital at Bilney Manor, East Winch.

This charming house has been lent by Mrs Tallent, through Mrs Critchley Martin, who as Commandant of No. 12 Voluntary Aid Detachment, is in charge of the hospital. Mrs Martin acts as Secretary, and Mr Page (Swaffham) as treasurer.

The hospital staff consists of Mrs Critchley Martin, a trained nurse, two Red Cross nurses living in the house for a fortnight at a time, and other nurses coming for a few hours daily. At present there are twelve men in the hospital.

The following is taken from The book of Narborough,

by kind permission of David Turner.

At the outbreak of the First World War the British Red Cross Society and the St. John Ambulance Brigade joined forces to care for sick and wounded soldiers.

These two voluntary Aid Services had between them raised more than £21,000,000 before the war started, and by the time it ended most of it was gone.

As casualties abroad mounted at an alarming rate, thousands and thousands of men were shipped home for further treatment and convalescence. In no way could existing hospital services cope, but in a remarkably short time hundreds of emergency hospitals were set up nationwide, many of them in country mansions.

In the vast majority of cases the owners willingly made room for the wounded and were happy for the necessary adaptions to be made to their new homes.

Norfolk's response over the period of the war was to open 62 auxiliary hospitals, 28 of them before Christmas 1914.

Nearly 36,000 patients were admitted to the county, cared for by more than 3,000 Voluntary Aid Service workers

The local paper on 28th November 1914, reported that…

Mrs H Tallent, who proposes going to Bournemouth shortly for an indefinite period, has generously placed her residence - Manor House, West Bilney - at the disposal of the authorities for injured soldiers. It is understood the house will afford accommodation for about 12 such invalids.

The Lynn News and County Press reported in 1915 that,,

At the residence of Mrs Tallent there are now located twelve sick and wounded soldiers under the care of Mrs Critchley Martin of Narborough, and three nurses.

With Dr Allen in attendance three times weekly.....

Our correspondent writing on Wednesday staes that "all the invalids are progressing satisfactorily towards recovery.

Mrs Critchley-Martin of Narborough Hall was appointed as Commandant of the hospital and the doors opened in March 1915. By 1916 it was decided to move the patients to the larger Narborough Hall.

WEST BILNEY - October 1915

RED CROSS HOSPITAL. -The Commandant returns her grateful thanks for

the following.gifts:-

Eggs (100). the parishioners of Gayton and Gayton Thorpe, Gayton school children, Narborough children, €egg depot Little Massingham, Miss Groom.

Fruit. Lady E. Taylor, Mrs Thompson (Swaffham), Hon'ble Miss Amherst, Rev.Brereton (Little Massingham), Mrs R Sewell (Swaffham).

Vegetables. Setch harvest festival, Sir W. Lancaster, Hon'ble Miss Amherst, Lady Romney, Mrs Thompson.

Game. Mr O.Birkbeck (16 brace partridges), Mr.Leake, Mr.G.H.Rennie, Col.Herring, the Hon'ble, Mrs R Marsham (four brace partridges).

Rabbits. Lord Romney, and Mr G.H Rennie.

More wounded men from Norfolk war hospital arrived at Narborough early on Wednesday, and they were met by the Commandant and conveyed to the hospital in cars kindly lent by Col.Herring and Mr R Heywood, and also in the hospital car.

A jumble sale, arranged by Miss Betton, was held in the hospital grounds and

realised the sum of £€13 towards the coal fund. Thanks are due to all those who so kindly sent goods for the sale and for the tea.

The Commandant is most grateful for subscriptions from Mrs. De Pass, Hon'ble Miss Amherst, Miss Mason, Miss Lancaster, Mrs Howlett and others. lf some kind friends woutd send a few basket chairs for the men they would be most acceptable.

Mrs Critchley-Martin continued to run the hospital until it closed in June 1918.

During the three years it was open at West Bilney and Narborough, 607 men were cared for.

See also In the Papers too - and click on 'The Great War' in the contents list.