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One thing that sticks in my mind from my childhood is the number of ex-servicemen from the First World War begging in the streets, or playing a musical instrument for donations. All had limbs missing or loss of sight.
Edmonton Military Hospital was one of several hospitals in England given over to the care of wounded soldiers during the First World War. It was a special surgical hospital for orthopaedic cases.
It was in Silver Street, Edmonton and is now the North Middlesex Hospital.
The Military Hospital was a great centre of interest to local people with its two large red crosses on the front gates.
My father's uncle, E. G. Cole, was very much involved in setting up the hospital for military use, for which he was awarded an MBE.
We children were always excited when a convoy of wounded soldiers was expected. They had been brought back to England by ship, then by train to a London Station where ambulances met the convoys. My father was one of the ambulance drivers. The ambulances moved only at a slow walking pace to try to prevent unnecessary jarring, as many of the solders were extremely badly wounded. When we children saw them coming along Silver Street, we would run along beside them and cheer.
"On Monday a train load of wounded men arrived at Swindon [presumably another hospital]. Being a Bank Holiday food was a difficulty, especially bread. However Stephens the baker got to work and got his ovens going, but we had to GIVE the bread as it is illegal to SELL bread till it is twelve hours old."
from a WW1 letter in 'Charlotte's Beastly War'
by James Melik, reproduced with permission
When the wounded soldiers were well enough to go out, they were very noticeable in the street as they were dressed in sax blue suits made of what looked like a type of lightweight flannel material, and they wore bright red ties.
It seems that all the country's main military hospitals had the same uniform. See for example a photo from Caenshill Military Hospital, courtesy of Lesley Ruse.
The next two photographs show the uniforms of the various grades of nurse, as well as the suits worn by the patients who were well enough get dressed. The first photograph is at a wedding in a nearby house and the second is in a ward.
Naturally everyone was very kind to the wounded soldiers. America sent tins of tobacco which were very attractive. They were about three inches long and curved to fit comfortably into a breast pocket. The name on the tin was Tuxedo and there was a picture of a man in a dinner jacket. The Americans also sent grapefruit, and my father had some, presumably a perk of the job. We had never seen them before and tried to eat them like oranges. So we didn't like them at all because they were so bitter.
When the war was over, the hospital had a Peace Tea, and, as my father was on the staff, my mother and I were invited too. There was food galore and it was the first time I had trifle with sherry in it.