Following on from the unveiling, in May 2015, of a Memorial Board in Kirkburton Library dedicated to all the men from the Kirkburton area who served during the First World War, the Local History Group have been researching the roles that the women of Kirkburton undertook during the First World War to support the war effort. In particular, the Group looked at the women who worked at the Kirk burton Auxiliary Military Hospital.
Casualties from the Front began flooding into the country within a few weeks of War being declared and they began arriving in Huddersfield by the end of October 1914. Most went to the Infirmary and another large group went to Durker Roods in Meltham. In addition, a few small nursing homes were taken over to cope with the first contingent and a few weeks later Lightridge House at Fixby was also used.
The Mayor of Huddersfield launched a public appeal to open a purpose-built War Hospital at Royds Hall in Spring 1915 but the authorities were also looking at the Kirkburton Drill Hall in the July to assess its suitability as a hospital before Royds Hall was opened.
The Kirkburton Auxiliary Military Hospital was housed at the Drill Hall, Shelley Lane and it opened on 29th November 1915 with twenty beds. The Drill Hall was formerly the base for the Territorial Army.
The hospital was run jointly by the British Red Cross and the Order of St. John, and Group researchers found details of seventy-five women linked to the Kirkburton hospital on the British Red Cross World War One website although it is thought not everyone was recorded. Further research on Ancestry and Find My Past linked the women to the village using birth, marriage, death and census records. Some lived in Kirkburton itself but a few came to work at the hospital from the surrounding area.
Anxious to do their bit for the war effort, women all over the country joined the British Red Cross’s Voluntary Aid Detachment and were known as VADs. Some worked overseas on the Front and some volunteered to work at home in the military hospitals. Those working in the auxiliary hospitals worked part time and fitted their duties in with their other commitments at home. Duties included general ward work, minor dressings, cooking and sewing which were done on a rota basis.
The Group decided to commission an additional Memorial Board to honour these local women using some of the grant that had been allocated from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2014. Agreement was given by Kirklees Council and Kirkburton Parish Council for the Board to have a permanent place in Kirkburton Library alongside the men’s board. Mindlabs Ltd, of Kirkburton who had designed and erected the men’s board, were approached again and they agreed to design the VAD board to match. They designed a flag to cover the board until the dedication using a group photograph of nurses and patients pictured at the front of the hospital in 1917. They also designed a new plaque to acknowledge the support given to the History Group by the Heritage Lottery Fund for the commissioning of both Boards as part of the Group’s World War One project. Mindlabs also produced a pull up board about the work of the VADs at the Hospital which will be used for future exhibitions and visits.
The Chairman, Ken Christie welcomed over fifty to the event including the Chairman and Clerk of the Kirkburton Parish Council, Parish Councillors Anna Boden, John Sykes, Maureen Sykes, Derek Hardcastle, Kirklees Councillors Bill Armer and Richard Smith. There were representatives from the 4
British Red Cross and St John, Kirklees Library Services, the Reverend Amanda Grant who is the new vicar of All Hallows, Kirkburton and a photographer from the Huddersfield Examiner.
Dr Priestman and Mrs Barraclough were presented with photo frames containing pictures of the hospital, some of the VADs and the Medical Officer. Mrs Barraclough’s pictures also included a photograph of her mother in her VAD uniform.
Light refreshments were served after the dedication which included cake and biscuits baked by members of the History Group using World War One recipes. £75 was raised through the sale of World War One Recipe Booklets and this was shared equally between the British Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance.
The Group would like to thank all the Friends of Burton Library who worked so hard to prepare the room for the event, help with the refreshments and the clearing up.