Convalescing soldiers

During World War 1, Car worked with the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nursing convalescing wounded soldiers.  She made over one hundred sketches of some of her charges, which can be viewed here.  Twenty five of her subjects are unidentified but, unusually for Car, for many she recorded the rank, name, regiment and, in some cases, where they were wounded.  There are also three sketches of nurses.  Names followed by * in the list below have been matched with Forces War Records.

Most of the patients are wearing the standard issue blue hospital suit with red tie.  This was somewhat notorious and not always popular.  There were claims that it marked the wearer out, should they steal off to the pub!  It also served to indicated that the wearer was not avoiding war service.

This set of paintings is a fascinating record of Car’s charges. The location(s) has not yet been determined, but records show she worked at the hospitals at Wainfleet; Boxmoor House, Boxmoor; and the Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital, The Old Place, Lincoln. 

Thanks to Sue Wale who has researched the subjects of these paintings on behalf of the Amersham Museum.  Her notes are included on the individual painting pages.

Sue Wale’s comments on the paintings

The artist

In today’s terms, Car was a Health Care Assistant or Occupational Therapist supporting convalescent servicemen. Convalescing servicemen were often sent to auxiliary hospitals, which were less formal than military hospitals, which may be reflected in the relaxed nature of the soldiers painted.

  • Slough, VAD Hospital, Langley
  • Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital, Aylesbury
  • Winslow VAD Hospital – Chequers Court, Butler’s Cross – Stoke Court 
  • Officers’ Auxiliary Hospital, Stoke Poges – Langley Park, Slough
  • VAD Hospital, High Wycombe
  • Chalfont and Gerrard’s Cross Hospital, Chalfont St. Peters
  • Bulstrode Park, Gerrard’s Cross
  • Auxiliary Hospital, Newport Pagnell
  • Dorton House, Brill  

The paintings

  1. Some of the men painted appear very natural and relaxed, while other servicemen’s postures are quite forced, which may say more about the subject than the artist.
  2. There are five paintings that show serviceman with a physical injury. One serviceman is standing supported by crutches with one foot in a surgical boot, one has a walking stick, one has his arm in a sling and two servicemen appear to have their 3rd and 4th fingers of their right hand missing. One serviceman is wearing slippers, although it is unknown if this suggests a foot injury or is just a form of comfortable footwear. 
  3. Five of the paintings may be of foreign servicemen, coming from Australian and New Zealand battalions and there also appears to be servicemen with Italian, Polish and Dutch names. 
  4. Ten servicemen are wearing casual dress rather than the red tie and blue jacket worn by all other servicemen. Seven servicemen are wearing their regimental beret, suggesting pride in their regiment and appearance.
  5. Medals are worn by ten servicemen. There is one Croix de Guerre medal, a French military decoration, which was commonly bestowed on foreign military forces allied to France. Six servicemen are wearing their striped award for fighting overseas in 1914/15 in the regular army or for volunteering for service. Here is an unknown striped award that contains red, white, blue, yellow and black strips and two yellow round wound badges are worn. We are grateful to Professor Ian Becket for his input into recognising military medals awarded.
  6. It is uncertain whether wearing a medal was a normal part of the red and blue convalescing uniform or whether the sitter is sending a message by wearing his medal for the painting.
  7. Servicemen come from many different regiments across the whole of the UK and Northern Ireland. They include regular soldiers and soldiers who signed up as war progressed.
  8. Six servicemen are described in the paintings as being in the RAF. This suggests that these paintings were painted after 1st April 1918 which was when the RAF was formed.
  9. There are no paintings of commissioned officers as they are all privates or NCO’s. 
  10. Many leisure activities are shown in the paintings with:
    • 21 servicemen smoking or holding a cigarette
    • 16 servicemen smoking or holding a pipe
    • One serviceman playing the piano
    • Four servicemen playing cards
    • One serviceman appears to be weaving cloth or wool
    • Four servicemen are reading or holding a book
    • Three are writing
    • Two servicemen are reading papers
    • One serviceman is mending something, with a hammer and string shown
    • One serviceman appears to be holding a regimental cloth
    • Two soldiers have a small dog with a collar, called Trixie on their lap. 
  11. By looking at the Forces War Records, silver war badge records and Ancestry records, it may be possible that six servicemen have been identified at this time.  Servicemen so identified are indicated with ‘*’ after the total of the painting.
  12. There are a couple of discrepancies in the rank described on the paintings and the rank indicated on the clothes the servicemen are wearing. 
  13. Although we cannot identify most of the servicemen, the history of their regiments during World War 1 gives us a very rich picture of the possible life that these servicemen could have lived.

If any visitor to this site can help further with explanations of abbreviations or identifications, please leave a comment on the relevant page.

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