Out of the blue
In mid-October 2010 Pat and Mike Smith, returning home to Cheltenham after holidaying in the West Country, called in at our garage here in Fovant. While chatting to Adrian, the garage owner, they asked him if there had ever been a military hospital in Fovant. Adrian referred them to us … the rest of the story flows on from here.
Although Mr and Mrs Smith, and their four children, moved into their house in Cheltenham in November 1972 it wasn’t until 1976 that they found, tucked away in their loft, a large envelope addressed to a Miss Dugan. Inside were two photographs and a sheaf of cartoons. Some of the drawings portrayed domestic situations, but most were of military subjects. Most were signed Fred/E.M. and dated 1917. Several of these latter categories mentioned Fovant and its military hospital – hence the Smith’s enquiry concerning the possibility of a military hospital in Fovant.
But who, and what, was Fred, and why was he at Fovant Military Camp in 1917?
Is this Fred?
This photograph, one of those which accompanied the cartoons, was addressed to Mrs Dugan of Mariners, Park Hill Road. No town was mentioned, and the address is not that of the Miss Dugan, undoubtedly Mrs Dugan’s daughter, who was the previous owner of the Smith’s house.
Miss Dugan was a teacher at the Central School for Girls in Gloucester Road, Cheltenham, but it was closed in the late 1950s, so clues as to her further identity are lost to us.
Perhaps Fred and Miss Dugan were romantically connected for a while, but, obviously any romance between them can only be conjecture.
Who? Where? What? Why?
Accepting the reasonable assumption that the photograph is that of Fred, what do we actually know about him?
He signed himself Fred/E.M., so ‘Fred’ is likely to be a nickname.
The E.M. part of his signature is an undisputed fact, while the ‘Fred’ as a nickname is an educated guess.
He is an officer in either the British, or possibly, the Australian army. Regiments from both were stationed in Fovant at this time.
Consulting such of our records which list those men of either army who were stationed in Fovant during the WW1 period, no match was found amongst the Australian forces. However, the British list noted Lieutenant E. Marchant, of the 3/7 Battalion, The London Regiment. This MIGHT be Fred.
He is standing on the step of what looks like a private house.
Fred is a soldier, an officer, in either the Australian or British army, but which? Compare the uniforms.
The hats, are an obvious difference, but since Fred wasn’t wearing one in his photograph we can ignore that difference. The uniforms themselves are very similar, so they don’t help much as far as identification is concerned. However, the Australian is wearing knee high boots while the Briton is wearing puttees and short boots – like Fred is. This fact is not enough to draw definite conclusions from, but it is a point for consideration.
Look at his photograph again.
- Since he has not got light coloured lapels to his jacket he is not a patient at the hospital.
- His regimental badge, though unclear, is not that of the Medical Corps, so he is not part of that staff.
- He is wearing spurs, so he may belong to a cavalry regiment.
- There were many horses in use at the camp, so he could be a member of the Veterinary Corps.
- Or he could be none of the above!
So we really don’t know why Fred was at Fovant Camp at this time.
Pursuing the ‘Why, Where and What?’ of Fred has told us little about the man himself. However, it is obvious that he is a talented cartoonist, and much can be gleaned from the humour portrayed in his drawings and their accompanying captions.
Is the humour shown in the cartoons British or Australian? Pat Smith thinks British, Mike Smith thinks Australian, our group secretary (a New Zealander), thinks Australian, my husband thinks Australian and I am undecided, but veer towards Fred being British.
After looking at the following cartoons, what do you think?
Mince for breakfast
The Australian Influence
Many of Fred’s sketches were of Australian soldiers. Is this significant?
The Lance Corporal
The Military Policeman
This is one of only two sketches that were noted, and dated, as being made at Fovant in 1917.
The caption reads: ‘Army Issues to our heroes.
(Trench feet & Hospital Blues.)’
The more formal uniform for patients, also known as Hospital Blues, were distinguished by the pale blue lapels on the uniform jackets (as seen in the pictures below).
Other than that the soldiers are British we have no further indication of who the people in the photograph are, neither, since the picture is undated, do we know when it was taken. However, a comparison of the central lady and Fred’s caricature does show a similarity.
A further clue lies in this extract from an edition of the British Journal of Nursing dated August 16th, 1916.
“Honours for Nurses
… Acting Matron QAIMNSR (Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service) Military Hospital Fovant
Miss H.H.Smith ARRC Acting Matron Royal Red Cross – First Class”
We are a little further forward because we now know the name, and nationality, of the Fovant Acting Matron in the autumn of 1916. What we don’t know is whether the lady of either Fred’s cartoon, or the photograph, is Miss H.H.Smith.
STOP PRESS – 30 September 2011
We now know that the matron of Fovant Military Hospital in 1917 was actually Miss Susannah Lamming who was appointed matron at Fovant on 4 November 1915. Since the photograph above was taken in 1918 it must be she who is the matron in the picture. She remained there until 21 December 1918. She had been on sick leave before that date and when she was well again was posted elsewhere.
Our thanks go to Sue Light (email@example.com) for this and the following information:
I have to admit from the start that I’m only 95% sure without having a look at service records.
So, the first thing to mention is that the uniform of the ‘sample’ QAIMNS Reserve nurse, is not the same as the woman sitting in the centre of the group. The Matron with the group on ‘Out of the Blue’ is a Matron of the Regular QAIMNS. She’s wearing the solid red cape of the regulars, red matron’s cuffs, and the larger service badge (cape badge) of the regular service. The nurse on Out of the Blue Appendix 2, is either a staff nurse or nursing sister of QAIMNS Reserve – she is wearing the smaller service badge of the Reserve, and a cape of grey with red facings and very different from the all red of the regulars. The pre-war regular QAIMNS was a very small service, just 300 members at the outbreak of war, and the establishment didn’t increase during wartime. All ‘joiners’ during wartime were appointed to the Reserve, or to the Territorial Force Nursing Service, so the permanent regular staff remained very elite.
So to dispose of Hannah Smith, as a Reserve, she would have been wearing the grey and scarlet cape and therefore cannot possibly be the woman in the group photo. She was awarded a 2nd Class RRC (ARRC) on 3 June 1916, but at that time was still a sister. And by the time that award was upgraded to the first class, on 31 July 1919 she is then given as ‘Acting Matron’ but her rank would actually be written in full as ‘Nursing Sister, Acting Matron’, so she would still have been a substantive nursing sister, acting up. But it does look as though she was at Fovant for a long time, and at some time, probably after the Armistice, took over to release the Matron for other duties. I have copies of all the page images of the RRC awards, and will send them to you in a separate e-mail later. She has a service file at The National Archives (WO399/7702). But Hannah Smith is not your woman!
At the outbreak of war, the 300 ‘regular’ members of QAIMNS were really the heart of the service. Many were serving overseas at the time and recalled, but they filled the top jobs throughout France and Flanders, Egypt, Malta, etc. Quite a few of them were of an ‘older’ age group (although that’s laughable by today’s standards!) and were retained in the UK to manage the larger of the military hospitals or transferred home after a period of overseas service. I have a War Office list of matrons of UK hospitals dated the middle of 1917, and they were not all ‘regulars’ by any means. The matron of Fovant is given as Susannah Lamming, who joined QAIMNS right at its formation in February 1903. She had served in Egypt for a year or so from 1915, and then come back to the UK, and to Fovant. The medal ribbons are not clear in the photo, and the oxychromic film used at the time alters the colours in black and white, so never easy to be sure. Susannah Lamming, at the time of the photo would have had the Royal Red Cross, but also she served in South Africa during the Boer War and received the Queen’s South Africa medal, so if the strip is of two medals, that would be why. Great War service medals were not issued until after 1921/22 so wouldn’t figure here. She also has a service file at The National Archives (WO95/4698), which would confirm all this, but I feel quite strongly that this must be Miss Lamming. She was born on 7 June 1869 in Firle, Sussex, the daughter of a farmer, and trained as a nurse at Queen’s Hospital, Birmingham, between 1893 and 1896. She received the RRC (1st Class) on 3 June 1916, and retired from the service on 7 June 1924 at the age of 55 – she died 5 June 1955. But as a real ‘veteran’ she would certainly fit in with that spiky little cartoon of the matron!
The rest of the cartoons are all concerned with domestic situations and are dated 1917, so we assume that Fred was still in the army. However we do not know whether he was still stationed at Fovant at the time.
STOP PRESS – 19 November 2010
(A new twist to the story)
Our secretary, whose specialist subject is the W.W.I camps, searching through her records on my behalf, has JUST found this copy of the Hurdcott Herald. On the front cover is another E.M. cartoon. Undoubtedly this is the work of Fred.
Hurdcott Camp was originally established in 1915 for British Regiments. Some time in 1916 the camp was taken over completely by Australian Forces. So the assumption has to be that the Hurdcott Herald, the official camp magazine, was an Australian publication, and that all the contributors to it would have been Australian.
Since those of Fred’s cartoons which are dated indicate 1917 as the year in which they were sketched, coupled with the date of this fifth issue of the Hurdcott Herald, the case for Fred being an Australian is overwhelming.
Hurdcott camp is almost opposite to the ‘Map of Australia’ on this plan, where the Australian soldiers, who camped on the extreme right, closer to Barford St Martin than Fovant, carved the outline of the map on the ridge of Burcombe Ivers. The hospital in what is still known as Hospital Field, was almost opposite to where they also carved the badge of the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces.
Many regiments carved their badges on our hills during this period but their maintenance has proved ever more costly over the years, so many of the originals have been allowed to grow over.
The Australian Commonwealth Military Force badge is still evident, but the Australia map can no longer be seen.
For further details of the Fovant Badges you can click here.
The Second Photograph
The first photograph, that which MAY be Fred, was accompanied by a picture of a baby, of about eighteen months old, who we guess is the John, mentioned on the reverse of the photograph.
So, who are Sybil and John? The most likely explanation is that Fred has married, that Sybil is his wife, and John is their child. The writing on the message above is not that of Fred, but it may well be that of his wife. (It’s often the wife who deals with family correspondence).
Who is ‘Dear May’ ? It could be either Miss, or Mrs. Dugan, or possibly a close relative who warrants three kisses.
This all has a peace-time feel to it, suggesting that it was then post-war. which would indicate that Fred survived the hostilities.
But where did the supposed marriage, birth of the child, and the photograph, take place?
STOP PRESS – 25 November 2010
Information just obtained that translates the blurred writing at the bottom of baby John’s photograph ( Studio Hugo ……….. Cheltenham ), now shifts the focus of Fred’s possible movements back to Cheltenham.
If, as is likely, this photo is of post-war vintage, the date is probably in the early 1920s.
Perhaps ‘Conclusion’ is not a suitable title here, for my research so far has thrown up more that is unknown than that which is known.
- Fred was a cartoonist.
- He was at Worgret Camp at Wareham in Dorset on 22nd February 1917.
- He was also at Fovant Camp some time later in 1917.
- One of Fred’s cartoons appeared on the front cover of the 22nd September, 1917, edition of the Hurdcott Herald.
- In the 1970s some of his cartoons, accompanied by two photographs, were found in the attic of a house in Cheltenham by its new owners.
- One of the photographs, that of a baby, was signed on the reverse as being from ‘Fred, Sybil and John’.
- Was he an Australian or British soldier, or a civilian?
- If he was a soldier what was his regiment?
- Why was he in Worgret at the beginning of 1917, but in Fovant by the autumn of that year?
- Are those of his cartoons which are not dated 1917 drawn in another year, or was it because they were just not dated?
- Was it because he was a hospital patient, or member of staff, that he would have had the opportunity, to draw so many detailed cartoons?
- Why was the drawing of the hospital matron a caricature rather than a portrait?
- What was his connection to the Dugans of Cheltenham?
- How did his cartoons, and both photographs, end up in the attic of the Cheltenham house?
- What relationship did he have with Miss Elsie Cary?
- Are the ‘civilian’ cartoons, some of which are dated 1917, drawn from life?
- Was Sybil his wife and John his son?
- Was Sybil Australian or British?
- Since the photo of John was taken in Cheltenham did Fred settle there?
- If he settled in Cheltenham was he an Australian married to a British girl?
- Is the first photograph actually of Fred?
- If the picture is not of Fred, who is it of?
Many more questions will occur as research continues, but we have now come full circle, back to the opening picture, which in putting in the caption ‘Fred/E.M’ asks the most basic question of all – who is the soldier in the photograph.?
Can we, after almost a century, unravel this mystery? Perhaps not, but maybe someone out there can help us give a name to whoever it is shown at the beginning of this web page. All else will stem from that.
With thanks to Pat & Mike Smith
To read more on this subject, please click on the following links to see the appendices.
Content last updated
2 May 2012