The 1918 Pandemic in Romsey
WWI USA Hospital built in Romsey
An America military hospital was built in 1918 on land now known as Woodley Estate, (formerly Jane's Estate) - it was bordered by Winchester Road and Brashfield Road, and catered for U.S casualties and then later coped with the great influenze pandemic**.
** Pandemic Infuenza 1918 To maintain morale, wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, Britain, France, and the United States; but papers were free to report the epidemic's effects in neutral Spain (such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII), creating a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit—thus the pandemic's nickname Spanish flu
CAMP HOSPITAL NO. 34
A Camp Hospital came into existence in Romsey, England on March 20, 1918, when the "Camp Infirmary", then being used by the neighbouring American Tented Rest Camp, was redesignated as Camp Hospital No. 34. This infirmary had been in operation for since December 26, 1917, with the personnel needed to operate it being detailed temporarily from the units and organizations that passed through the camp but later it was staffed by the American Red Cross and US Army Medical Units.
At first, the hospital consisted of a small permanent building and four British hospital tents, of a capacity of about 14 beds. In the fall of 1918, a 300-bed hospital was being constructed complete with operating theatres. During its existence as a camp hospital, it received 1,748 surgical & medical cases; the largest number of patients admitted in one month was 433, in September, 1918.
Camp Hospital No. 34 ceased to function November 30, 1918, its personnel being reassigned.
The above information is based on the "History, Camp Hospital No. 34, A. E. F., Romsey", written by the commanding officer of that hospital. The history is on file in the Historical Division, S. G. O., Washington, D. C.-Ed.
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Note:- As well as Camp Hospital 34 in Romsey there was also U.S. Camp Hospital No 35 in Winchester, U.S. Camp Hospital No 36 in Southampton, U.S. Base Hospital No 33 in Portsmouth, U.S. Base Hospital No 204 at Hursley Park near Winchester and other U.S. Hospital Units that passed through the Rest Camp at Winnal, Winchester.
Letter from America written by Walter T Pontsford :- sent to us by his grand daughter Kathy Smith
"During World War 1 I was in the 9th Construction Co ASSC Aviation Section of the Signal Corps) We left N.Y. on the Aquitania on April 2, 1918 and landed at Liverpool, England. We build U.S. Base Hospital #34 at Romsey England, which replaced a base hospital in tents. The new brick building took care of 1000 patients, but during the flu epidemic there were 3000 in the hospital, which was partly finished, with the roof about half on. We worked on the roof over their heads and put in the windows and doors around their beds. We returned on the Adriatic on Dec. 1st 1918 and arrived in N.Y. on the 11th. Romsey Abbey was a large church in Romsey about five miles from Camp Woodley. signed Walter T Pontsford".
We also received a Souvenir Spoon of Romsey from the family, taken back to the USA by Walter. The spoon and the original letter are now displayed at King Johns House Museum, Romsey
A further letter has been received from Marian 'Maya' Pontsford Shortridge. (mother of Kathy Smith and daughter of Walter. T. Pontsford.)
My father was Walter T. Ponsford and he served in Romsey, England during World War I. I remember Daddy speaking of “Pitch” (sp?) quite often. “Pitch” could be a nickname or a shortened version of his full name, I’m not sure. He was Daddy’s commanding officer in or near Romsey, where their outfit was to build a military hospital. It seems to me that Pitch was a Captain in the army. He knew nothing of construction so he turned the job over to Daddy.
Henry T. Ponsford, my grandfather, was the founder of the construction company, H.T. Ponsford and Sons. He was the contractor for many El Paso landmark buildings, as well as many other buildings throughout the southwestern states in the U.S.. From the time he was very young, Daddy had been his father’s right hand in the family construction company, so Daddy was well versed in the building business.
Dad and Captain Pitch became very good friends. Pitch and his wife visited mother and Daddy in El Paso several times. Mom and Dad also visited them in the northeast, either New Hampshire or Vermont as I recall. For several years they sent us local maple syrup of the highest quality.”
-Marian “Maya” Ponsford Shortridge ( daughter of Walter. T. Pontsford.)
Photos of USA Military Hospital at Romsey 1918
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Copyright of US Army Medical Department History of Medicine