Letters capture life onboard a war hospital train
AUNIQUE collection of letters have revealed a snapshot of life aboard a hospital train used to transport injured servicemen during the First World War.
Private Richard Chadwick, of Jodrell Street, Macclesfield, spent much of the conflict as an atten ant, assisting medica in treating thous men from bot the trains Europe.
The ofte gave Ric in civil detail h letters t of them the Macc the prede Express. He a picture postcard most of the villages, to and cities he stopped
One small coastal in France called M had such an impa Richard that his grandson was named a it.
Richard enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps on February 13, 1915, and was posted on the 16th
There were also coaches which acted as operating theatres, sleeping quarters chen, offices ining room xperiences rowing. In
describes m soldiers le and Suternds returning trenches with ipes and drums had lost 700 from r battalion. In another poignant letter he describes a station yard heaped with ‘cartridges, clothing, equipment, rifles and bayonets from the firing line, belonging to men killed and wounded. It looked just like a ragshop.’
Richard’s letter show life on board the train was difficult and tense, especially when they treated enemy soldiers.
In one letter he recalled an attendant who ‘on the impulse of the moment’ ripped the buttons off a German’s tunic and threatened to ‘knife’ anyone man who reported him to his superiors.
There were other traumatic experiences including when the hospital tra in derailed and crashed into another and when Richard fell ill and was hospitalised for several weeks.
Richard also described pleasant experiences of travelling through France and chance meetings with a Macclesfield vicar, the Rev AC Evans of St George’s, at a camp in Rouen and Macclesfield soldiers, Broderick, of Bank Top and Peter Potts, of Pickford Street.
Richard survived the war and returned home to his wife Lydia and his children, and resumed his career in the post office.
His remarkable collection of letters now belong to his great great granddaughter Susan Chadwick, 61, from Sutton, who now planning to turn the story into a book.
She said: “Richard’s story is unique because of his experiences on the hospital train.” ●● MACCLESFIELD Talking Newspaper for the Blind has produced a special edition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War.
Volunteers looked back on August 1 and 8 editions of the Macclesfield Courier and Herald, the predecessor to the Express.
As well as the war in Europe, other stories featured in the 70-minute recording include a woman arrested for riding her motorcycle and sidecar down Chestergate at 8mph, a baby show at The Stanley Hall, a runaway horse being stopped by a brave policeman, the mobilisation of the Bollington Territorials, and Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic.
Advertisers include some familiar names such as Arighi Bianchi, J J Cookson, Gorton & Wilson, and C A Day. Listings included Daisy Doodad’s Dial at the cinema on Buxton Road and a ladies versus veterans cricket match at the Victoria Road ground where the men had to bat left-handed and field with the left hand only.
CD copies of the special recording are now on sale for £5 from the Macclesfield Eye Society Resource Centre on Queen Victoria Street. ●● OVER the coming months the Express is looking back on the First World War.
Do you have letters, diaries or photographs from any relatives who were involved in the Great War?
Whether they were in active service, or in some supporting role at home or abroad, we would like to hear their stories. Email the details and photos to macclesfieldexpress@ menmedia.co.uk or visit our Facebook page.
To speak to a reporter, call 0161 211 2985.
●● his army uniform, above right, and in his postal e of news cuttings, far right