31st May 1916

During the first day of the Battle of Jutland, 31st May 1916, three local men lost their lives in this great clash of 250 warships when the German Navy tried to break a naval blockade in the North Sea. The two days of the battle saw the loss of 25 ships and 8,500 men, three-quarters of whom were British. Despite the huge losses, the blockade held.

Lieutenant Commander Leonard Hubert Lindner and Ordinary Telegraphist Elias William Wright were killed when their ship, H.M.S. Indefatigable, was sunk after being hit by shells from the German battlecruiser, Von Der Tann, which ripped a hole in Indefatigable’s hull, causing the ship’s magazine to explode and blow the ship in half. Only two of the 1,019 crew survived. According to one of the survivors, the ship’s Captain, C. F. Sowerby, survived the sinking but died of his wounds before he could be rescued.

On the same day Able Seaman Francis Smitten was killed in the same battle, when his ship, H.M.S. Black Prince, was sunk with all 37 officers and 820 men lost.

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Berkswell Rectory Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital

Berkswell Rectory was used as an Auxiliary Hospital during the First World War. These hospitals for wounded soldiers were administered by the British Red Cross Society, and were used as convalescence hospitals – a stepping stone between treatment at a general hospital and discharge home.

The Red Cross had set up Voluntary Aid Detachments (V.A.D.) in each county to provide supplementary aid to the Territorial Forces Medical Services in the event of war. Members came to be known as ‘V.A.D.s’ and were all trained in first aid and nursing.

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Auxiliary Hospitals

In 1909, the British Red Cross was tasked with helping the Territorial Forces Medical Service in the event of war. It set up local units called ‘Voluntary Aid Detachments’, and members were trained in first aid and nursing.

Image of nurses at The Hermitage
V.A.D. nurses at The Hermitage, Lode Lane, Solihull

Auxiliary Hospitals, attached to military hospitals, were established – the following are known to have operated in Solihull:

  • Berkswell Rectory (opened 26th May 1915)
  • Fentham Institute, Hampton-in-Arden
  • Norton Cottage, Knowle
  • Springfield Hall, Knowle
  • Ivy Cottage, Marston Green (opened 6th September 1915)
  • Olton Congregational Church Room (opened 9th February 1915)
  • The Hermitage, Solihull (opened 18th November 1914)

Do you know of any more?

The British Red Cross Society holds records of V.A.D. nurses, and will search the records for you if you make a request in writing. Details of some V.A.D. nurses who served overseas are also available on the Find My Past website (this is available free of charge from library computers in Solihull, otherwise a subscription is required to view the records).

If you have any relatives from places now within the Solihull Borough who served as V.A.D. nurses, please let us know. You can leave a comment here, or email us at heritage@solihull.gov.uk or phone us on 0121 704 6934.

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

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