Whiz-Bangs Krumps and Coalboxes

31st December 1916 Sunday

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

“I saw the New Year in at Perth Cross. A huge crowd mainly of young lads and girls collected towards midnight, and made a great din letting off crackers and bombs, and shouting and singing. When I got back to Hospital I joined the nurses at the New Year Feast which consisted mainly of trifles, fruit, cakes, tea and champagne!”

Douglas tells us he saw the New Year in at the Perth Cross. The scene today is one that having been altered in the most uninspiring way, was set to be lost entirely as the City Hall had been voted by the council to be demolished. Fortunately, further interventions have apparently seen the salvation of the building. Schemes, initially approved by Perth and Kinross Council in 2014 which would have seen it turned into a hotel seem to have come to nothing. The latest news as of September 2016 was that it was now approved to be reinvented as a Visual Arts Centre, forming part of the new Perth City Plan.

city_hall_and_perth_cross_streetview

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

28th December 1916 Thursday

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“On the 28th Lady Kinnard entertained the wounded men to tea and a concert in the Masonic Hall. I escorted Matron to the show. It was a terrific rabble. After the concert the guests took to dancing. It was worse than St Andrews on Fair Day!”

The Matron of Perth War Hospital with a wounded South African

The Matron of Perth War Hospital with a wounded South African. The patient is wearing the light blue uniform as issued to men that had received war wounds.

Lady Kinnard referred to in the diary, I believe to be a typo and the lady referred to was in fact Mary Alma Victoria (Agnew) Kinnaird, the wife of Arthur Fitzgerald Kinnaird the 11th Lord Kinnaird.

Although born in London his family were wealthy bankers from the Perthshire area and he became the chairman of Barclays Bank. The 11th Lord was also a great sportsman and footballer renowned for his tough tackling. He won a singular cap for Scotland against England and played against Chingford’s very own Mr Charles Alcock in the second FA Cup final of 1873. He holds the record for the amount of FA Cup final appearances making nine in total.

Both Lord and Lady Kinnaird died within 11 days of each other at their home at 10 St James’s Square (now Chatham House), London in 1923.

Lord and Lady Kinnaird 1900

Lord and Lady Kinnaird in 1900

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

25th December 1916 Monday

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“Christmas was a great day in hospital. I woke up with my bed etc decorated with holly – the work of the nurses! The patients had a great feed in the beautifully decorated dining hall at noon, and I dined with the staff at 1.30pm. Afterwards I had a sing-song with the men in the Hall, and then a huge tea – in fact I had five teas that day – one with the men, one with the nurses on A Floor, another on B Floor, another on C Floor, and the last with the Matron. At night we had a whist drive in the Hall, followed by a dance till midnight. A huge success.”

christmasday_1916

 

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19th December 1916 Tuesday

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

“It was a decided nuisance especially as I had to repack all my goods after shifting from the Royal Hotel into ‘digs’ near the barracks. Major Paton a Perth medical practitioner, was my superior officer at the War Hospital. He didn’t live in, but I did, and was very comfortable in a cosy bed-sittingroom. The hospital was well equipped and staffed with trained sisters and V.A.D. nurses*. There were 75 patients in the place, but my work was never very heavy.”

Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses (VADs) were established by the War Office before World War One to help out in military hospitals and usually consisted of women from well-to-do dispositions. You can read more about them in this post from the Museum of the Order of St John.

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

17th December 1916 Sunday

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“Next day I took over from a Captain Mede at the hospital which contained 33 beds – two wards and a scabies isolation block. After getting into the swing of things I was transferred to the war hospital in the Poor House on the 19th.”

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16th December 1916 Saturday

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“At noon on 16th December, I got orders to proceed “forthwith” to Perth for duty at the military hospital there. I arrived in the Fair City at 6.30pm and proceeded in a Growler to the Military Hospital when I reported for duty and then went along to the Royal Hotel where I stayed overnight.”

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

5th December 1916 Tuesday

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“Needless to say, the next fortnight was very pleasantly spent. I found all well at home and enjoyed the change of food and the comfort of clean, cool sheets and open fires again. I paid visits to many friends, and also to the Infirmary where I watched operations, and attended clinics, and my old school Watson’s, where I got a great reception.

On December 5th I reported at Scottish Command Headquarters. I was sent to the Castle, and saw the senior medical officer there – Col. Perry – who handed me over to a Major Wilson for duty in the Board Room. Here we medically examined men up for commissions and disabled soldiers for pensions. The work was not heavy but was confining. Then I got the job often of visiting sick soldiers on leave at their homes. This was better for I was able to get out for a walk. Every third night I had to go on night duty at the small hospital in the Castle. I never got any work to do and was made very comfortable.”

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21st November 1916 Tuesday

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Today in what seems like an act of either folly or extreme bravery, Lt Douglas Page presented himself once more to the War Office and signed on again for another tour of duty. He was not alone in this act of loyalty, many young men having survived the term of their contract, volunteered yet again to serve their country. This time though there was a distinct difference from November 1915. Douglas was under no illusion of what war would be like. He had already been through a year of horror. Clearly it wasn’t all terrible. Even in the midst of adversity there were some fun times. The pretty girls, Madame Zeppelin, Christmas dinner and Hogmanay in the trenches. He felt slightly torn leaving his comrades behind and obviously  felt he had more to offer, saving lives on the battlefields.

“Next day – November 21st – I reported at the War Office, and signed on for another year’s service in Egypt this time, just for variety, I was granted leave until December 5th.

After visiting old billet friends at Epsom, I left King’s Cross for Auld Reekie at 11.30pm in a very crowded train which was 1½ hours late in getting into Edinburgh.”

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

20th November 1916 Monday

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“… the boat was crowded, and the crossing was a bad one.  I wasn’t at all well! Folkestone was reached about 9 o’clock and I got a seat in the Pullman for London. Victoria was reached at about 11am. Great! I drove across London in style in an old growler!* There were no taxis. I put up at Morley’s Hotel** in Trafalgar Square. After lunch saw the official war films at La Scala Picture Theatre.# At night I went to “the Bing Boys”## at the Alhambra. George Robey was in great form.”

The Channel crossing was a perilous  affair at this time. On the 26th October 1916 only three weeks before Douglas’s voyage the regular Boulogne /Folkestone steamer “Queen” had been sunk by a German destroyer.

* A Growler was a four wheeled horse drawn taxi, so called due to the noise made by the wheels on the cobbled streets.

** Morley’s Hotel, favoured by Douglas on more than one occasion,  stood on the spot now occupied by South Africa House,

# La Scala Picture Theatre  was a largely unsuccessful theatre situated on the corner of Tottenham Street and Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia. It was used to show the very earliest of colour films in a process known as Kinemacolour. It was also used for the theatre scenes in the Beatles’ film “A Hard Day’s Night”. The site is now occupied by various buildings amongst which is Scala Court.

## “The Bing Boys are here” was a very popular revue that ran from 19th April 1916 at the Alhambra Theatre in Leicester Square until 1917. It was also produced on Broadway and was still in production in the 1930s. Probably the best remembered song from the show is “If You Were the Only Girl in the World” Douglas’s granddaughter Elizabeth remembers him often singing that tune. The Alhambra itself was originally built with minarets which by this time had been removed. After undergoing various rebuilds since it first opened as a theatre in 1856 it finally closed its doors in 1936 and was demolished soon after.  The space today is occupied by a very drab building, Alhambra House.

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-10-54-13Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

19th November 1916 Sunday

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A significant  day in young Douglas Page’s life and war. His contract  had come to an end. It was almost a year since he departed on the train  from  Edinburgh on December 2nd 1915 and made the  rough crossing to Le Havre  aboard the Huanchaco and eventually to the Western Front. Having already survived numerous close calls with shells exploding just behind him at Richebourg church, the devastation of his Division the 38th Welsh at the Somme,  the recent dud “archie” falling beside him, plus various  “wind-up” occasions when he could so easily have been blown to pieces. All of these would have been enough to make the toughest of men feel that a chance to escape the horrors of the front would be welcome relief.  He had done his stint and served his King, country and comrades well and he could have easily felt justified in being one of the lucky ones able to return home to tell his amazing tale.

“On November 19th I left Proven for ‘Blighty’ on the expiry of my year’s service. I was sorry to leave but wanted to get home to see how everything was going with Mother and the others. I got a train at Poperinghe at 2pm. I got to Boulogne about 7 o’clock, going via Hazebroucke, St Omer and Calais. I stayed at the ‘Hotel Metropole’ overnight and left France at 7am next day….”

Today there is still a hotel in Boulogne  bearing the name Hotel Metropole but the original didn’t survive, Boulogne being heavily bombed in both World Wars.

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here