Tag Archives: Friends Ambulance Unit

In Memoriam: John Stephen White

John Stephen White was born at West Hartlepool in 1899 and attended Bootham School from 1913 to 1915.  He died on 12th June 1917, aged 18 years.

When he left Bootham, the school magazine of June 1915 said:

“J. S. WHITE, who leaves from the Upper Schoolroom, was a member of the committee for that class. On the 3rd football eleven he was a promising forward, and took great interest in tennis and fives. His hobby was carpentry, at which he did much creditable work.”

He joined the Friends Ambulance Unit on 26th September 1916. In October of that year the Home Service Section of the F.A.U. posted him to Haxby Road Hospital in York, which had opened in 1915.

“Bootham” magazine of June 1917 reported:

“We were glad to renew friendship with J. S. White last October when he joined the Haxby Road Hospital (F.A.U.). In February he became too ill to continue the work, in which he had proved himself keen and capable. It was with deep regret that we heard of his death at Gateshead on June 8th.”

John Stephen White’s F.A.U service record, including a photograph, may be viewed online at http://fau.quaker.org.uk/search-view?forename=john&surname=white&=Search .  (viewed 6th July 2017.)

William Fryer Harvey

Thanks to Kate, one of the volunteers in the archive, for researching and writing this post.


William Fryer Harvey was at Bootham from 1898 to 1901. He was born in 1885 into a prosperous West Yorkshire Quaker family. His father and brothers were also at Bootham and his sister a pupil at The Mount. Having studied at Balliol College Oxford, William then took a degree in medicine at Leeds. He joined the Friends Ambulance unit in 1914 and served until 1916. In 1918 whilst serving in the Royal Navy as a surgeon-lieutenant, he was involved in a rescue from the boiler room on board ship. For his bravery he was awarded the Albert Medal for Lifesaving and the full citation can be read in Bootham magazine, Summer 1918. Sadly this incident damaged his lungs and he never again regained full health, dying at the early age of 57. Amongst his many achievements the one for which he was probably most well known during his lifetime was as the published author of  “supernatural tales”. One of the most famous was “The Beast with Five Fingers” and this was made into a film with Peter Lorre in 1946.


The archives contain a number of items written by him during his years at school. The collection includes letters to parents and his brothers both from school and whilst on holiday and a beautifully bound exhibition piece entitled “A collection of leaves”. There is also a volume of natural history observations and a two-volume diary of 1899. The handwriting is easy to read and there a number of very good pencil sketches and coloured illustrations of leaves, flowers, plants and the various churches and houses he visited. Reading through these it is interesting to ponder what hints there are in the schoolboy writings for the direction his life took after leaving Bootham. Certainly there is mention of many medical issues – scarlet fever, measles, colds etc are mentioned and in one letter he relates how a fellow scholar “ fell down in a fit during science going black in the face”. Happily after medical assistance, the boy recovered quickly enough to be playing football later in the day! He exhorts one of his brothers, studying in France, not to “catch smallpox from books” there and when his sister is taken ill, he writes to his brother that “her mind has given way probably from her studious habits” and says they should take this as an example “not to overwork themselves for fear of a similar fate befalling us”. However it is obvious that he has not taken this to heart, as prolonged study would have been needed to gain his medical qualifications.

From reading of his later life, his love of church architecture and the natural sciences seem to have been lifelong interests and I hope he kept the enquiring mind, which is illustrated, in the following extracts from the diary, written when he would have been around 13 years old.


 “June 26th. I performed the following experiment to show that flowers on respiring produce carbon di oxide; by respiring I mean the taking in of oxygen. I took a number of common garden flowers such as marigold, blue corncockle, rose and placed them in a flask, being kept in position by a plug of cotton wool. I placed the flask in an inverted retort stand and placed a cork in the neck of the flask through which a glass was put open at both ends; one end of glass tube dipped in mercury on the top of which floated a solution of potassium hydrate. This solution absorbed the carbon di oxide given out by the flowers and the mercury rose about half an inch and a half.

I took some petals of a red rose and boiled in water; after some minutes the petals completely lost their colour and the water was coloured green and still possessed to a slight degree the scent of the rose.

 July 1st – 6th. When removing the flask containing the flowers used in the experiment, a drop of acid happened to touch the blue flower of the corncockle and at once it turned a bright crimson red. I tried putting some more of the acid (sulphuric) on the flowers again and in each case obtained the same result. I then took some red GERANIUM and blue CRANESBILL and placed a few drops of ammonium hydrate on the red geranium and some dilute acid on the blue cranesbill. The colours of the flowers were reversed, the geranium becoming a bright blue though the change was not so quickly accomplished as in the case of the cranesbill.

It appears that certain flowers have the property of acting as an indicator of acids and bases in the same manner as litmus.

When the coloured petals were boiled in water until colourless, the water was slightly coloured blue and red.

On one drop of acid and ammonia being added to each, the colours changed and when acid and ammonia were added in the reverse order, the coloured water went back to its original colour.

The flower of a FUCHIA I examined had two sorts of petals; -the outer being red, the inner purple. But where the base of the inner purple petals touched the red ones, it was streaked with red. These purple and red petals acted in the way as those of the geranium and cranesbill. Perhaps the nearness and greater acidity of the red petals had something to do with the reddening of the base of the purple petals”

  petals of a red rose and boiled in water; after some minutes the petals completely lost their colour and the water was coloured green and still possessed to a slight degree the scent of the rose.


First World War: School News, Summer Term 1915

“This year “Matric” came late, about the beginning of July, and so the period of reaction and reform was shortened. At this time the Yorkshire farmers were in need of labour, and the boys, hearing of this, immediately volunteered to fill the depleted ranks, and to do what they could to feed the pigs and hoe the turnips of unfortunate agriculturalists. Thus no reaction set in, and the School knew no post-matriculation slacker.

The work was undertaken in the following way : six boys, supplied with red handkerchiefs, blue cans, and other attributes of the farm-labourer — corduroy trousers and clay pipes were barred — set out on cycles about eight o’clock, not re-appearing until six. Then, having performed their ablutions, they came to the usual tea, where extra rations were served. As wages they received two shillings a day; of this they saw nothing, as it was handed straight to the treasurer, who in turn passed it on to the Old Scholars’ Wartime Service Fund.

Besides farming-work at the end of term, a few boys were privileged to share in clearing up that part of the Cocoa Works which was to become a military hospital with orderlies from the Friends’ Ambulance Unit. Having taken part in the setting up of the X-Ray apparatus they were amply repaid by having a closer knowledge of the bones in their fingers, chest, and head.”

From Bootham Magazine, December 1915

First World War: News from the Ambulance Unit and Relief Party, June 1915

“All the sackcloth and ashes of Jerusalem would hardly serve to cover the sub-editorial shame. We promised original accounts of the great work of the Relief Party and Ambulance Unit; neither is forthcoming. The Editor of Bootham has been much too busy in Belgium to write any news, and no one in France had any time to spare either…

The Ambulance Unit has, we fear, been slightly disorganised for a short time by the advance towards Ypres, but the members are continuing their work wherever possible in spite of difficulty and danger, and look forward to wider activity in the near future. We were all very sorry to learn that two members of the party, Donald Allen being one of them, had been rather badly wounded, but the latest reports are good.

The Relief Party has been building veritable cities of huts, in which many homeless folk have been able to take refuge.

It is a great thing to know that our fellow Old Scholars are doing such fine work. We can only trust that the time will soon come when they will be able to continue their labour without the constant knowledge that for every human being saved or work created dozens of lives are being deliberately ended and works destroyed.”

From Bootham Magazine, June 1915

In Memoriam: Frederic Garratt Taylor

On 25th September 1915 Frederic Garratt Taylor was killed by a shell in Flanders. He was a member of the Friends Ambulance Unit and was on duty with his ambulance car picking up wounded soldiers. He was 21 years old.

Photograph of FG Taylor in uniform

Frederic was a pupil at Bootham School in York between 1908 and 1912. He was known as a fast swimmer, who twice helped his bedroom to win the aquatics team race and gained the Bronze Medal of the Royal Lifesaving Society. He also won prizes in the workshop category of the school exhibition for making chessmen and a cycling tent.

FG Taylor

After leaving school he joined Morland & Impey Wholesale Stationers in Birmingham, before joining the Friends Ambulance Unit in 1914, going to Dunkirk on 4th December 1914.

FG Taylor Vehicle permit Pocket case belonging to FG Taylor

The Commandant wrote from Dunkirk on 27th September: “We have just returned from his graveside in the little cemetery here, a company of over a hundred members, nurses, and officers of the unit who went to pay a last tribute of honour and affection to a comrade whom every one of us loved, one of the brightest, most willing, and cheeriest members of the unit.” The French authorities awarded him the Croix de Guerre.

FG Taylor Croix de Guerre FG Taylor Letter from French Authorities

His friend Lawrence Rowntree wrote this in the school magazine in December 1915: “When I think of Eric Taylor I am always reminded of Peter Pan: he never grew up. In determination, in pluck, in self-reliance, he was a man, as we all knew him in France; in light-heartedness and cheery good spirits, in his readiness to enter into anything that savoured of mischief, and in his enthusiasm in taking up any new employment, amusement or hobby, he was always a boy, without a care in the world.”

First World War: Friends Ambulance Unit update, March 1915

“The Friends’ Ambulance Unit has now completed four months’ work at the front. During the whole time it has continued to work in the same area in Flanders and Northern France; and its headquarters remain still where they were first established at Dunkirk. The original party that went out from England has been more than trebled in size, and there is still no slackening in the demand for men to do the additional work that is continually opening out. Before Christmas the unit’s main achievement was the organisation of a system of seven ambulance stations on the front, which carried among them in a few weeks over ten thousand wounded men, mostly from aid posts just behind the trenches, to hospitaux d’evacuation in the rear. Since Christmas the biggest development of the work has consisted in a large scale attempt to cope with an epidemic of disease among the refugees and civilian population still living in the very front of the fighting zone in Flanders. Besides the work of two hospitals, which have an accommodation of over two hundred beds, various preventive measures have been taken; six thousand five hundred civilians have been inoculated against typhoid ; a pure water supply has been provided in various towns and villages; and now every house in the district is being visited and, if necessary, disinfected. Much of this work is done within range of the German guns. The unit also has two hospitals in Dunkirk, one of which, it is hoped, will vary rapidly expand.”

From ‘Bootham’ magazine, March 1915

First World War: Dunkirk Ambulance Unit Appeal

DEAR MR. EDITOR,—The response to an appeal for help from friends of the School for the Ambulance Unit at Dunkirk has been most generous. We have sent nearly 5,000 articles of clothing and blankets, etc., from Bootham, and £300 has come in cheques to be spent as necessities arise. May I take this opportunity of again thanking all those who so kindly and readily sent assistance urgently needed? With the rapid extension of hospital work the wants of the Ambulance continue to be great.

Yours sincerely, ELLEN H. ROWNTREE.

From ‘Bootham’ March 1915

January 1915 News

“The School welcomed Mr. Alexander back; it will be remembered that he was to have come at the beginning of the September Term, but was unable to do so on account of working with the ambulance unit in Dunkirk.”

“Our Belgian family was still at Earswick and in a very flourishing condition, as the man had got temporary employment in the cocoa works.”

From ‘Bootham’ magazine. See a previous post about the family from Belgium.

A postcard from Corder Catchpool

It will be generally known that our President, T. Edmund Harvey (1887-1891), after preliminary visits of investigation to Holland, Paris, and Bordeaux on behalf of the Friends’ War Victims Relief Committee, is now leading our first party of workers in France. Three others of this first party are O.Y.S., in Hugh B. Clark (1899-1901), F. Herbert Wetherall (1893- 1894), and Arthur B. Webster (1907-1909), all of whom are acting as chauffeurs. There are so many O.Y.S. working with Philip J. Baker (1903-1906) in the First Anglo-Belgian Ambulance Unit in the neighbourhood of Dunkirk that these will probably be referred to elsewhere, so I will be content to quote, by permission of Stephen Hobhouse, a postcard addressed to him on November  11th by T. Corder P. Catchpool (1900-1902) and franked by M. Stansfield (1903-1905) as “Acting Adjutant ” :— ”We are spending long- hours day and night dressing ghastly wounds in the shambles, two huge dark, dirty sheds at the station, where some 300 wounded arrive and leave by boat every twenty-four hours. The sights, sounds and smells could hardly be imagined. Some 20 of our party are out at the firing line, and have already experienced nights under continuous shell fire. We relieve the party weekly, so my turn will come very soon. Our surgeons are busy at an improvised theatre here—we bring out the worst cases from the station, and have some 50 beds at disposal. Many die each night. Some go mad.” Our thoughts go with both parties in the prayer that their work may serve to spread the spirit of love and reconciliation, upon which alone our shattered civilisation can be rebuilt.

From ‘Bootham’ magazine, December 1914

An update from the Anglo-Belgian Ambulance Unit in Dunkirk

On the passage from Dover to Dunkirk the vessel Invicta assisted in rescuing- the survivors of the sunken cruiser Hermes. The members of the party rendered aid by manning the boats, by dressing one or two wounds, by artificial respiration for the partially drowned, and by stretcher work.

On arrival at Dunkirk the larger number of the party proceeded almost at once to the station sheds, where the wounded are laid out on straw. The work there, which is described by Dr. Nockolds, has continued, with the exception of half of Monday night, ever since. It is mostly carried on by relay parties of six to twelve persons, who work day and night in shifts of four hours. As the stream of wounded is almost continuous, and as it requires at the least six in a shift, and usually more, to cope with the need, it is clear that for a party of less than fifty the work has been heavy. This has been accentuated by the necessity of utilising a considerable number of the party in other ways. But the work has been well done, and the British Consul here has volunteered the opinion that our presence and efforts have done much towards improving the general organisation, order, and cleanliness of the clearing sheds.

In addition to this, men have been detailed to supervise and organise the loading of hospital ships which transport the wounded from Dunkirk to Cherbourg and other centres. On Sunday 750 cases were loaded on the British hospital ship Rewa between 6.30 a.m. and 11 o’clock; on the same day 600 were loaded on the Plassy; on Tuesday and Wednesday the same boats were filled with a complement of 900 and 690 respectively; on the Monday 1,200 were put on a French boat. Fleet-Surgeon Datton, of the Rewa, expressed great satisfaction with the way the work was carried out. Six hundred blankets were obtained, after much effort, from the French authorities for the use of the wounded on the Rewa. Some transport work with the motor ambulances has been accomplished, but up to the present no great necessity for it has arisen, as at Dunkirk there is a large fleet of military ambulances, and the ambulance trains are usually shunted right down to the quays; the cars have, however, been in constant use for taking the surgeons and dressers rapidly to and from the clearing sheds and the hospital ships.

There is more work to be done in Dunkirk than can be handled by the present party; that is to say, more men can be immediately and profitably employed. Further, we have hopes of establishing in a day or two a dressing station in a Belgian military hospital at Ypres, which will require a complement of twelve men or thereabouts. And, lastly, as part of a larger scheme, we hope to establish a small clearing hospital where operations necessary to save the lives of some of those who come into the station sheds can be safely carried out. It is hoped that the French military authorities will allocate to us an apartment which is admirably suited to the purpose, and which is only a few hundred yards from our present headquarters at Malo-les-bains, just outside Dunkirk.

At the moment of writing the party is provided with eight motor ambulances, one motor-lorry, and a motor bicycle. If the present plans mature, more motor ambulances and more unconverted “scouting” cars will be urgently needed. The morale of the party is very good.

PHILIP J. BAKER. Dunkirk, November 6th, 1914.

From ‘Bootham’ magazine, December 1914. Philip J. Baker was at Bootham between 1903 and 1906. He was later known as Philip Noel-Baker, and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1959.