Hall Lane, Harwich, Essex
At the outbreak of the First World War, several places in Harwich were taken over by the Admiralty and for the Admiralty. Harwich was a fortress town so patients were not always sent directly to these hospitals – they would be transferred from surrounding camps and other towns i.e. from Colchester.
In Harwich, a ‘Garrison Military Hospital’ was created at ‘The Great Eastern Railway Hotel’ and it’s Annex.
There was also a ‘Dovercourt Military Hospital’ which was a separate unit but not a true auxiliary hospital – it was a ‘section’ of the Garrison Military Hospital, Harwich. Being a ‘section’ rather than an ‘auxiliary’ meant that they were able to take patients directly from disembarkation and were under the control of the War Office rather than the British Red Cross Society and/or St. John (the Joint War Committee). Additionally, in Dovercourt, the ‘Isolation Hospital’ was used to care for soldiers and sailors with infectious diseases.
Three private houses in the area were also requisitioned for use as hospitals, ‘Cliff Hall’ with beds for 120 patients, ‘The Grange’ (Hall Lane) and ‘The Gables’ (Marine Parade), as well as the ‘Tower Hotel’ (Main Rd). The ‘Quay Pavilion’ was used as a canteen – it had entertainment facilities and a bar for naval personnel. Local residents entertained the patients by providing concerts.
The Admiralty requisitioned much of the Harwich Great Eastern Railway fleet during late 1914. Cargo steamers ‘Clacton’ and ‘Newmarket’ where converted to minelayers and minesweepers, whilst ‘Munich’ and ‘St. Petersburg’ were converted into hospital ships.
There is no doubt that not all the people who assisted in the running of these establishments have been discovered within records and, thus, they remain un-named.
‘The Grange’ (designed by local architect H. Steward Watling) and has been dubbed “the best known and best loved house” in Harwich, by local historian Steve Delves. The house (now a Grade II listed building) was built in 1911, on a plot of 7 acres and it had its own Lodge House. There was also a large double garage, complete with chauffeur’s accommodation. Grounds were beautifully landscaped with formal gardens, large ponds, an orchard and kitchen garden. The building is now home to ‘Harwich and Dovercourt Sixth Form College’.
At the outbreak of the First World War, ‘The Grange’ was one of the aforementioned properties that were taken over by the Government – to accept wounded service-men. No person has been identified as working at ‘The Grange’.
The photograph above was taken on 08th July 1919 – just over a week after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles had officially brought an end to the First World War. Undoubtedly, everyone pictured was intrinsically connected to that war.
This group of Red Cross Nurses were readying themselves for the interment of Captain Charles Algernon Fryatt at All Saints Church, Dovercourt, Essex. ‘The Grange’ was only round the corner from the church. A funeral service had taken place at St. Paul’s Cathedral earlier in the day – then the coffin had travelled to Dovercourt by train.
Although Captain Fryatt was born in Southampton (1872), he had become a Harwich & Dovercourt’s ‘Local Hero’. In 1915, (as Commander of the Great Eastern Railway Steamer SS Brussels) he was ordered to stop by a German U-Boat – he refused and steamed straight towards the submarine, forcing it to submerge. The Germans considered this as an act of piracy – outside the laws of war. On 25th June 1916 (bound for Harwich), he was captured off the Netherlands’ coast – he and his crew were sent to the civilian internment camp at Ruhleben, near Berlin. On 27th July 1916, Captain Fryatt was unjustly court martialed at Bruges Town Hall for sinking a German submarine – being found guilty, he faced a firing squad at 5pm that same day. He was buried in a small cemetery outside Bruges. However, in 1919, his body was exhumed and returned to the UK to be re-buried with full military honours.
Thousands of people lined the route from Dovercourt Station via Kingsway; Marine Parade; & Fronks Road to the Church yard. On the Marine Parade, some 1500 schoolchildren (under the care of their masters and mistresses) lined the route – headed by the regular and special police; The Shotley Band; Representatives of Friendly Societies & Masonic Representatives; The Mayor & Corporation; Major H.K.Newton M.P.; Lord Claud Hamilton; Members of the R.G.A.; Air Force; R.A.M.C.; Members of ships stationed in the harbor; Boys from Shotley; Representatives from all of the Great Eastern Railway departments; Representatives from every local organization; and The Bishops of Chelmsford, Colchester and Barking.
Captain Fryatt’s murder was one of the three best known German atrocities of the First World War War – the sinking of RMS Lusitania and the execution of Nurse Edith Cavell being the other two. The Cottage Hospital in Dovercourt was named after him.
Thanks go to Steve Delves, reference research on ‘The Grange’.