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

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