1915 - 1938
A new kind of hospital for a shocking new kind of war
From vision to reality
All in it together
A future back at work
In house innovation
Private Frank Chapman & Gwynne Holford
The humble hook that made Roehampton
The idea for Roehampton was conceived when aristocrat Mrs. Gwynne Holford visited a British military hospital in 1915 and met Private Frank Chapman, a middle aged volunteer soldier who had lost both arms in battle at Ypres.
Both were saddened at the very basic hooks Chapman had been given to replace his arms…
“Is the best my country can do for me?”
Mrs. Holford mobilised influential friends to create a hospital “to make and fit the most perfect artificial limbs human science can devise…”
Roehampton House became home to that revolutionary new hospital. Private Chapman (and 26,201 others) went on to receive artificial limbs there during World War One.
Limbs were made and fitted on site, and nurses and staff ran a programme of rehabilitation that helped prepare amputees for life outside the hospital.
Frank Chapman married at Roehampton in 1916, with Gwynne Holford guest of honour.
He was able to return to work, gardening, cycling (and smoking!) and learned to write again in an elegant (artificial) hand.
Lance Corporal Alfred Hart
Buried alive, saved by his stick
Alfred Hart was injured at Ypres in Belgium. German engineers tunnelled underneath his trench and detonated explosives, burying him alive.
Three days later a British soldier noticed the silver tip of a swagger stick (carried by most off-duty soldiers) poking out through the soil.
He bent down to pull it out of the soil, and got the surprise of his life to feel the stick being pulled back by a badly injured but determined Lance Corporal Alfred Hart at the other end.
Rescued from a premature burial, Alfred’s leg was amputated. He spent many years in rehabilitation at Roehampton.
Sergeant Arnold Loosemore VC DCM
Saved his comrades, buried in poverty
Arnold Loosemore survived Gallipoli, only to be sent to the Somme. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for immense bravery under heavy enemy fire, then a year later bravely led his battered unit back to the safety of their own lines, earning the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Badly wounded in October 1918, he lost his left leg above the knee. He died in 1924 from tuberculosis and was given a military funeral. His near-destitute wife and small son had been refused a War Widow’s pension and yet she was sent the bill for the funeral. Arnold was buried in an existing grave with three others, to save money.
Loosemore’s forgotten courage is now remembered with a street named after him in Sheffield.
Gwynne Holford used aristocratic contacts and influence to raise money and make Roehampton happen. She saw it as her personal project, focused on comfort for the men. After many clashes with fellow committee members, she was finally asked to resign in 1925.
Viscountess Falmouth brought her influence to bear with quiet determination and diplomacy, balancing Gwynne Holford’s passion. She devoted 60 years to Roehampton.
Sir Charles Kenderdine secured Roehampton House and 30 acre grounds. Focused on financial security he often clashed with Mrs Holford. He became Director of Artificial Limb Supplies at the Ministry of Pensions and was knighted in 1918.
Matron Amy Munn looked after the men like a mother, tending to their emotional needs as much as their bodily injuries. Her nursing staff included many unpaid Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses.
The limb fitters were a mix of cottage industry designers and makers alongside big manufacturers from the USA with more advanced designs including Hangers, Carne and Rowley.
Dudley Myers ran Roehampton’s Employment Bureau, offering the men extensive re-employment training workshops in 25 trades from architecture to diamond polishing.
The patients were originally exclusively military men. Adjutant Captain Nicholson ran the hospital on military lines. The patient’s comradeship and shared experience was a fantastically effective therapy.
Physicians originally came in only on Thursdays. Thomas Openshaw, Lord Horder, A H Elmslie, Blundell Bankart, Muirhead Little and Eldred Corner were prominent among them.
Institutional support came from the Ministry of Pensions, London County Council, British Red Cross, Order of St John, British Legion and the British Limbless Serviceman’s Association