Read about the many ways in which wounded soldiers were entertained during the First World War in "Stories from the War Hospital".
ENTERTAINMENT AT BECKETT PARK MILITARY HOSPITAL
Patients at Beckett Park Hospital - officially named the Second Northern General Hospital - could look forward to a regular supply of entertainment, from a variety of sources. According to "Leeds in the Great War" published in 1923, the artists who visited the wounded in all of the war hospitals included “vocalists, instrumentalists, accompanists, elocutionists, dancers, comedians, ventriloquists, conjurors, mimics, jugglers, cartoonists, sword experts and other variety entertainers”. Famous singers of the time like opera star Carrie Tubb performed in the wards. Garden parties and sporting fixtures were amongst the other wartime activities held in the grounds of Beckett Park. The driving force behind the entertainment programme was Yorkshire-born Harry Clifford Bowling, who was the secretary to the Leeds War Hospital Entertainments Committee.
One of the most popular groups of entertainers at Beckett Park military hospital was the Cheero Boys - a pierrot troupe consisting of men from the lower ranks of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). Although normally dressed in the pierrot's traditional baggy costume, together with whitened face and black skull-cap, the Cheero Boys' talent for raising a laugh can be seen in photographs of them dressed as patients or nurses.
Trips were sponsored by local firms, including the staff at Leeds Post Office, who arranged for twenty-five patients to be “conveyed by motor to Bardsey... the route taken being via Arthington, Harewood and East Keswick. On arrival at Bardsey, the men, chiefly limbless cases, found an excellent tea provided for them by the hostess of The Bingley Arms (Mrs Benchley), which was given gratuitously by this lady."
At the end of the First World War, Beckett Park Hospital launched its own magazine to replace the "Journal of the Leeds Territorial Hospitals". Called "The Blue Band", in reference to the blue uniforms worn by the patients, the magazine contained stories, poems, articles and satirical sketches as well as chronicling life at Beckett Park Hospital. It also acted as a source of information for the wounded and disabled servicemen about to be discharged and looking for a new career. Tours to local workshops and factories, including the Yorkshire Post printing works and Hepworth's Clothing Factory, were sponsored by the Army Education Scheme.
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