Sunday, 21 May 2017

No 3 AAH Dartford

When in England between voyages on troop ships between Australia and England Janet Gaff worked at a number of Australian army hospitals. However the one that she worked at for the longest period of time was No 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital (AAH) at Dartford in Kent. Janet was a member of the nursing staff at Dartford from 7 December 1917 until 12 December 1918.
Entrance to No 3 AAH, Dartford - AWM
The Orchard Hospital was built between 1901 to 1902 as temporary accommodation for up to 800 patients who had contracted smallpox. By 1910 the smallpox epidemic was controlled so the hospital was used to house, primarily, patients with scarlet fever. (Dartford Hospital Histories)
Dartford Hospital buildings c1917 - AWM
On 9 October 1916 the hospital became the Dartford Australian Auxiliary Hospital. The hospital was expanded to accommodate up to 1,400 patients.
Rows of wards at Dartford - AWM
Dartford Hospital Histories provides information about improvements made at the hospital complex between 1916 and 1919:
Over the two years to 1919 considerable improvements were made. The most notable was to the grounds and gardens, cookhouse, headquarters and the addition of an operating theatre. There was an efficient boiler house supplying steam to drive the engine to supply heat for the laundry to dry clothes and to provide hot water for all the wards (and was also used for heating). The lighting was provided by gas, each ward having a liberal number of jets.
Australian soldiers suffering from 'shell-shock' the term used at the time for emotional distress, caused by experience of war, were housed at Dartford. Jan Bassett (p 73) provides quotes from two nurses who worked at Dartford. "I nursed shell-shock cases, some of which were very severe. We principally had to try and amuse them, to make them forget." Another nurse commented that "progress was very slow indeed".

According to A G Butler (P 652) the hospital at Dartford was "deliberately established as a clearing hospital between the British General Hospital System and the Australian Command Depots and Hospital Ships."

A souvenir booklet of photographs of life at Dartford was prepared  1n 1918.
Men relaxing on the lawn
One of the dining halls at Dartford
Exercise class at Dartford
The Australian Red Cross had a store at Dartford.(Dartford Hospital Histories)
The Australian Red Cross took control of the Red Cross Store in April 1917. Every patient able to walk visited the store and was issued with various items to add comfort to his stay. For patients unable to walk the shop visited them once a week to give them cigarettes and chocolate. Every patient was issued with 30 cigarettes a week.
Australian Red Cross Store
The Unit War Diaries for Dartford provide a monthly account of the operation of the hospital as well as an account of activities arranged for the patients. Matron Pocock was matron at Dartford from early 1918 and her diary also provides activities and events at the hospital from the perspective of the nurses.

Every effort was to made to provide entertainment and recreational activities for the patients as well as caring for their medical needs. Some of the activities included cinema nights, visits from outside concert parties as well as entertainment organised by staff and patients, outings for groups of soldiers, plus a variety of physical activities.

The Unit war diary report for August 1918 includes a detailed description of the Second Annual Sports Meeting held at the hospital sports ground. The Australian Prime Minister, Mr Hughes, was a guest and gave an address to the participants. In the evening a special concert was given by the hospital staff.
A ward decorated for Christmas 1918 - AWM
At Christmas each year every effort was made to make the hospital a festive place for the patients.
Snow in 1917 - AWM
From time to time the nurses at the hospital had days off enabling them to explore nearby locations and to escape for a time the day to day stress they encountered. The unit war diaries mentioned when staff went on and returned from furlough. Matron Pocock's diary provides information about some of the places that she visited. On some of these excursions nurses, including Janet, accompanied the matron. The diary notes four of these expeditions. The one that Janet  recounted in a letter to her sister (later published in the Box Hill Reporter 29 November 1918 p5) was to Windsor Castle where they met Princess Mary.

War was never far away, however. The unit war diary and Maton Pocock's diary refer to air raid warnings, particularly in March and May, and to the precautions that must be taken. The hospital was also affected by the influenza epidemic that began in 1918 with reports on the effect on patients and staff from June 1918.

Janet left Dartford on 12 December 1918 to prepare for her final return trip to Australia as a Sea Transport Service nurse. The troop ship Nestor left England on 18 December 1918 and arrived back in Melbourne on 1 February 1919.

Australian War Memorial website - photographs of No 3 AAH Dartford
Australian War Memorial website - Unit war diaries - No 3 AAH (Dartford)
Australian War Memorial website - Matron Pocock's Diary volume 4, 1917-1919
Dartford Hospital Histories website
Souvenir of The No. 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital (Orchard Military Hospital) Dartford Kent ( a copy of this collection of photographs appears in No 3 AAH Dartford Unit War Diary August 1918 - AWM website.)

Bassett, Jan. Guns and Brooches: Australian Army Nursing from the Boer War to the Gulf War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992
Butler, A G. The Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War 1914-1918. volume 3. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1943

No comments:

Post a Comment