The story of Private Bass, a patient at Beckett Park Hospital in Leeds (officially the Second Northern General Hospital), gives an insight into the traumas which many solidiers suffered during the First World War
PATIENTS AT BECKETT PARK MILITARY HOSPITAL
"Stories from the War Hospital" recounts the experiences of some of the patients at Beckett Park Hospital in Leeds during the First World War. Many are harrowing, others heartwarming. The tale of Robert Bass, who became a patient at Beckett Park military hospital in 1917, is one of the accounts which has a happy ending.
Robert came out of the most appalling day in British military history, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, wounded but alive - a day when, along a fourteen mile front from Montaubon to Serre, there were 57,000 casualties, forty percent of whom were killed. On 29 April 1917, during the Battle of Arras, shrapnel tore away his upper lip, some of his upper jaw and most of his teeth. On arrival back in England, he was initially sent to the 4th Northern General Hospital in Lincoln, before being transferred to the 2nd Northern General Hospital at Beckett Park in Leeds, where he could receive specialised treatment for dental and plastic surgery. For the next seven months Robert endured regular extractions and surgery, all of it under ether and chloroform. Intravenous anaesthetics were not generally available until twenty years later, and antibiotics were unheard of. There is no mention of any morphine.
This traumatic time in Robert's life took a turn for the better when he met a young woman called Ada Porley, who was a regular visitor to patients at Beckett Park Hospital. Ada had moved to Leeds to find work in the clothing industry. Leeds was the headquarters of the Northern Area Army Clothing Department, whose depot on Gelderd Road housed 9 million yards of cloth and produced around 750,000 garments a week at the height of the First World War. When Robert's treatment at Beckett Park military hospital ended, he and Ada married, and made Leeds their home for the rest of their lives.
One of the couple's three children, Ken, recalls that many years after the end of First World War, his father met the RAMC doctor who had treated him at Beckett Park Hospital. The doctor offered to "take that scar off for you if you want", but his father replied "No thanks, I'm used to it".
Click image to see a list of chapters in the book "Stories from the War Hospital"