First World War: Silver Medal for Military Valour

In November 1915, several Old Boys were working in the Italian Unit of the Red Cross Ambulance Unit, along with Mr. G. M. Trevelyan, the historian of Garibaldi.  An urgent appeal for help reached the headquarters of the unit when a small building used as a cholera hospital in the village of San Florian was bombarded by Austrian guns.  Mr. Trevelyan and some men removed the inmates to a place of safety.

The story is reported in the March 1916 issue of “Bootham” magazine, and continues as follows:

“Two days later a similar thing happened. Mr. Trevelyan and six ambulance cars came to the rescue. The rear half of the building was already a mass of ruins, among which lay a dozen dead; the Italian officer in charge of the hospital was killed whilst standing side by side with one of the unit. All surviving patients were successfully carried off in the British cars. Augustine N. Grace (1890-91) and J. H. Gray (1897-1902) were in the rescue party.

In recognition of the gallantry displayed, King Victor Emanuel has decorated Mr. Trevelyan with the silver medal for military valour, “partly for this action, partly as representing his colleagues and collaborators, and in his capacity as Commandant of the First British Ambulance Unit for Italy .” “

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

Bootham as a Hospital – Ellen Rowntree’s perspective

In the December 1914 edition of ‘Bootham’ magazine, Ellen Rowntree (wife of Arthur Rowntree, Headmaster), described the events of the summer.

Mrs Rowntree - Copy

The summer term ended with its usual cheerful doings, picnics and examinations, triumphs of scholarships and swimming medals, river parties and cricket matches, and preparations for camp and holidays, with no suspicion of the great cloud hanging over us. Painters, carpenters, and charwomen were let loose upon the School, and the Head was finishing off the last of his papers, when the cloud burst over us and the shout of the war news rang down Bootham. We shared with the nation those first days of breathless tension and uncertainty, when all ordinary work and plans fell into the background and all that mattered was what should be done at once. This demand was speedily met for us as, consequent upon the rumour of a terrible disaster in the North Sea, the School was asked for as a hospital. Available members of the committee were consulted, and after hurried meetings with military and Red Cross authorities, the Headmaster arranged, greatly to their satisfaction, that fifty beds should be ready by noon next day on the ground floor of the school. Workmen were turned out, and a large body of willing helpers set to work to turn out cupboards and desks, sweep and scrub, beat mattresses on the masters’ grass, and carry beds down from the top landing. Old boys passing through from camp reversed waistcoats in time-honoured fashion and laboured with twice the zeal of packing-days. In a day the whole place was bare and spotless, the classrooms, gymnasium, and dining-room fully equipped wards. A continuous stream of motors brought medical extras, spare blankets, surgical furniture, county ladies, hard-worked officers and busy doctors to inspect and advise, and St. John Ambulance nurses, who made the beds, covered tables and desks with white oilcloth, set up charts, and arranged bandages and splints. The art room was transformed into an operating theatre. Gas was brought in through the window and well-protected sterilizers set up on the platform. Powerful lights were focussed over the operating-table in the centre, and in a corner stood a large sink with taps. The Reeves’ studies were for the use of nurses, and the masters’ common room was turned into a consulting-room. By degrees bedrooms, too, were made ready, and when we left for a fitful holiday Bootham was fully prepared for 106 patients. It was with mingled relief and disappointment that, as time went on, it was found unnecessary to retain the School as a hospital. The Government wished educational institutions to remain undisturbed, and as ample accommodation had been provided elsewhere for immediate needs the St. John Ambulance reluctantly withdrew and Bootham resumed its normal state. E. H. R.

Bootham School as a Hospital

“On Wednesday, August 5th, one of the York doctors asked if it would be possible to use the two Schools as hospitals for the wounded in case of necessity. Those members of the sub-committee who could be communicated with, met and considered the question at once, and found that they had little, if any, choice in the matter, as it was evident that a refusal would have resulted in the premises being formally commandeered either for this purpose or more probably for use as common barracks. Many of the Elementary Schools, as well as St. Peter’s and Archbishop Holgate’s, had already been commandeered as barracks for soldiers, 80,000 of whom it was said would require accommodation in York before being transferred to other places. In the circumstances, the Sub-committee thought it was wise at once to agree to allow the local branch of the St. John Ambulance Association to use the two Schools as hospitals. As the officials thought that a naval battle was imminent in the North Sea, we were asked to have fifty beds ready at Bootham in the shortest possible time.” From the Committee Minutes, 19 August 1914