A book of true stories from Beckett Park military hospital in Headingley, Leeds, during the First World War
Click image for a sample page from the book "Stories from the War Hospital"
Sister Violet Pratt joined the TFNS (Territorial Force Nursing Service) as a Staff Nurse at Beckett Park military hospital.
"Stories from the War Hospital" was written and compiled following interviews with descendants of nurses, patients, doctors and surgeons, together with extensive research in local and national archives.
Richard Wilcocks MA, ADSE, has worked as a journalist and a teacher, as well as for the British Council at the University of Poznan in Poland. He currently lives in Leeds, West Yorkshire.
Richard Wilcocks is the secretary of the annual Headingley LitFest in Leeds, the seventh one of which took place in March 2014. ‘Stories from the War Hospital’ was launched at this event, accompanied by a play written by the author, which was based on the book. The play was performed by The Vedettes, a specially-formed group of MA students from Leeds Metropolitan University.
Without entering any debate on whether the First World War was ‘necessary’ or not, a few brief observations might be in order on things which have cropped up during eighteen months of research. I was startled more than once by the utter blankness about the conflict in the minds of many adults, but I suppose four years of new books, television documentaries and dramas for the Centenary should disperse some of that.
I have discovered that historical research can be exciting, especially when something long-sought turns up like a golden key, and I have felt for myself that strange empathy with long-dead, apparently long-forgotten, people with which veteran historians must be familiar. I can now see, more starkly, a whole range of equivalents in a twenty- first century world full of xenophobia, warlords and fanatics, but also of peacekeepers and promoters of mutual understanding, and I have played the old “what if ” game with added confidence.
I have also noticed that the major contributions to the war effort of people from all over the Commonwealth, and not just the Anzacs, are being recognized much more than when I was at school, which is very healthy: black and ethnic minority children can perhaps see more relevance now. Their ancestors, too, knew about the defeats, the triumphs and the horrors. A million and a quarter Indians were involved, for example, of whom more than seventy thousand died. (p7)
Photograph © Steve Riding