We were recently sent this fascinating photo of Kings Weston house when it was in use as a WWI Auxiliary Hospital. It’s also unusual in that it is conveniently dated, to November 1918, towards the end of the conflict.
The photo was sent to us by Hazel Rowcliffe who shares that her grandfather is the gentleman playing chess on the right and he would have been 18 years old at the time of the photo. She says she doesn’t think he ever really spoke about his time in the war, but the interest he shows in chess saw him play competitively when he was older.
The scene is set in the library, now the Vanbrugh Room in the house. The tall library shelves have been stripped as part of the conversion of the room to a ward, along with all the family furniture and belongings. Only a remarkably tall mirror over the fireplace remains to ornament the walls, perhaps to large and fragile to consider moving. Temporary light fittings are rigged-up hanging from the shelves for the beds, each of which displays a red cross on its linen.
The nurse on the far right looks to be Sybil Napier Miles, the wife of the ‘squire’ Philip Napier Miles. She wears three bars on her left arm denoting three years of service as a volunteer nurse, which would correspond with the time that Kings Weston had been operating as a hospital. She took on management of the auxiliary hospital when it opened in 1915, and received the OBE for her efforts.