Friday, 2 September 2016

'Binks sleeps again' - working with the Craigleith Hospital Chronicles

Colin Smith has recently finished an MSc in Book History and Material Culture at the University of Edinburgh. He began volunteering with LHSA back in October of 2015, and has most recently been working with the Craigleith Hospital Chronicles, a World War One military magazine, printed for injured servicemen who were recuperating from war injuries in Edinburgh. In honour of the one-hundredth anniversary of the First World War, Lothian Health Services Archive revisits the Craigleith Chronicles from 1916 in order to record the names of people who regularly contributed to the making of the Chronicles. Many of the contributors were either patients or staff members associated with the 2nd Scottish General Hospital, a local hospital located north of Edinburgh City Centre. This blog post highlights some of the interesting stories that Colin has come across working with the Chronicles.

One of the more lively characters featured in the Craigleith Chronicles was soldier patient, Private Crumplethorne. Written by Lucas Cappe, the Crumplethore series told captivating tales of time on the battlefield. On first glance, his stories seem to be filled with one of courage, bravery, and gallantry-- nothing short of a distinguished serviceman reliving his experiences of time in war! For the more familiar subscriber, especially those who live in the same Ward with Cappe, his stories show signs of a great storyteller who entertained countless staff, fellow soldiers, and first-time listeners of his tales.

'Crump had a large and varied stock of yarns, and he loved spinning them'
[GD28/6/2 - Vol. 3, Issue 16]
More business-like, the Craigleith Chronicles circulated “Hospital Notes” in every subscription. The “Notes” brought readers up to speed with some of the past proceedings of the Hospital. Most of the time, the “Notes” recapped popular events like when distinguished staff members of the armed forces visited the Hospital. Other times the “Notes” updated readers on new building projects such as the construction of the Recreation Hut, gifted to the Hospital by the Red Cross Society in 1916. The “Notes” reported on staff changes too, noting which staff were called overseas for service and who would replace their spot. While the “Notes” wished the best to staff who were departing overseas, some months, it sadly had to bid farewell to friends and family of the Hospital too in “The Roll of Honour” which listed men and women who were killed while serving on the battlefront.

'Miss Ballingall, V.A.D., writes from Alexandria...'
[GD28/6/2 Vol 3, Issue 16]
One of the most enjoyable parts of the Chronicles that I think captures the essence of the staff and soldiers might very well be the drawings sketched by soldier patients for the magazine. One example particularly stands out from the rest: the drawings by Sapper George Bain who sketched a humorous comic strip for the November 1916 issue. The comic strip shows one full day in the life of Private Binks, presumably a fellow patient. From the time Binks came to the Hospital, the comic strip portrays the nightly noises that wake Bink from his sleep. From the geographical discussions on French towns in the wee hours of the night, the RAMC trampling through the loud corridors, the flash-light being shone onto Bink’s face to see if he is sleeping to the mandatory making of the bed by staff early in the morning, the comic strip shows the playful side of a soldier recuperating from his war injuries.

'The "rest cure" of Private Binks R.F'
[GD28/6/3 Vol 4, Issue 22]
On a more personal note, however, I contend the drawings show the endearing comradeship of one soldier to the next. It is this image that I wish to close on in this blogpost. To see how something so small as a hospital magazine played a significant role in the lives of those who served in the First World War is what makes this project so crucial for the one-hundredth anniversary observance.   

LHSA would like thank our wonderful volunteers Colin, Aidan, and Arianna for all their help on this fascinating resource. 


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