Archive for April, 2012

7936416 Corporal Richard Ernest Morris

April 28th, 2012

Thank you to Martin Morris, son of Corporal Richard Ernrest Morris for these photos and for the acompanying information. If anyone has further details of the Emergency Medical services at Whitchurch during the Second World War please get in touch.

W8/72 Emergency Medical Services - My father is seated first left, front row.

My late father was 7936416 Corporal Richard Ernest Morris (known as Dick). He worked in the steelworks at Ebbw Vale before the war and returned there after being demobbed. He became a well-known trade union official in the industry in South Wales and was awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Year’s honours list in 1974.

He served in the 1st Royal Tank Regiment , 7th Armoured Division, the famous Desert Rats during WW2. He was wounded both in North Africa and Normandy. After D Day he was medically downgraded and was placed on admin duties. Wanting to be near his wife and family in Ebbw Vale he applied for a post at Whitchurch Hospital and became admissions and discharge clerk, NCO (Non Commissioned Officer which covers ranks below Commissioned Officers such as Sergeant Etc., Corporal in my father’s case). He was in charge of NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air force Institute an organisation formed by the government in 1921 to run recreational establishments such as canteens needed by the armed forces) and was also responsible for organising entertainment for the wounded soldiers. The only entertainer of note to visit while he was there was Will Fyffe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Fyffe ) who he had to collect from the station. Often with some of the acts he had some difficulty getting a reasonable sized audience!!  He had an enjoyable time there playing tennis and squash with the doctors and other medics. He served there with W8/72 Emergency Medical Services (EMS) from December 1944 to June 1946 when he was demobbed. . The EMS was attached to a number of hospitals around the country to deal with casualty’s arriving from the various theatres of war.

W8/72 Emergency Medical Services - My father is 5th from the left middle row.

Broadmoor: ‘Fantastic’ views but would people pay to visit?

April 9th, 2012

Broadmoor Hospital

In Oxford you can spend the night in a hotel that was a former prison, featuring high barred windows, converted cell rooms and prison walkways.

In Karosta Prison Hotel in Latvia, the former KGB jail advertises itself as “unfriendly, unheated, uncomfortable and open all year round”.

Now, West London Mental Health NHS Trust hopes to interest a developer in taking on its old Victorian buildings at Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital, to create a hotel and housing.

The buildings at Crowthorne in Berkshire were declared “unfit for purpose” by the Commission For Healthcare Improvement in 2003.

The trust hopes the development of the buildings will fund a £250m redevelopment of the remaining facilities at the hospital.

The homes and hotel rooms would be just a few hundred metres away from the new psychiatric unit, but will be screened by trees and outside the high security perimeter.

Fresh air

The trust said it was “confident” a buyer could be found.

The Victorian Society, which originally had qualms about the plans, now supports the trust’s decision after visiting the site in January.

Ian Dungavell, director of the society, said he was keen to protect the hospital’s Grade II Victorian buildings, designed by prison architect Joshua Jebb.

“Over the years, the government has sold off a lot of old army bases and hospitals which just fell to pieces,” he said.

“We don’t want that to happen to Broadmoor. It has a lot of potential to be used for a hotel and housing”.

One reason Broadmoor Hospital may be more suited to be converted to a hotel lies in the attitudes to mental illness when it was built.

When it opened in 1863 there were none of the drug treatments we are familiar with today.

Victorian patients enjoyed a regime of rest and occupational therapy, and were expected to benefit from fresh air, sunshine and spending time outdoors.

In the early years of Broadmoor, inmates formed a self-sufficient community with a farm, kitchen garden and sports fields.

“The views from Broadmoor are fantastic, across very nice landscape,” said Dr Dungavell.

Broadmoor was built in landscaped grounds in Crowthorne

‘Good location’

“The windows in the former Oxford prison are quite small, but those at Broadmoor seem to be bigger.

“It could be converted relatively easily.

“It’s a good solid building, which has been well-maintained and is well-lit and well-ventilated.”

Dr Dungavell said large buildings such as prisons and hospitals naturally lent themselves to use as hotels with some modifications.

Each hotel room in the A-wing of the Malmaison Hotel in Oxford has been converted from three adjoining prison cells, and features original iron cell doors and barred windows.

“Broadmoor has got a good location, not far from Heathrow, near to a golf course,” added Dr Dungavell.

“Looking around I thought Broadmoor was much less noisy than your standard prison, so even though the hotel would be near the hospital, people wouldn’t be affected by noise.”

However, some may associate the name Broadmoor with some of the hospital’s more infamous patients, including the “Yorkshire Ripper” Peter Sutcliffe.

Dr Dungavell admitted this aspect might make some hotel guests nervous.

“It has more potential for a hotel than we thought, but if you were strolling in the grounds on a light summer evening and you heard some sort of noise in the grounds, you might be scared,” he said.

Post from the BBC news website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-17610985

Victorian Broadmoor revealed in free online book, well worth a read – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-15878353

http://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/