“It has been impossible to do more than just “carry on.””

As the world prepares to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War later this year, Cranleigh Village Hospital Trust – the charity campaigning to return community beds to the village – and Cranleigh Village Hospital League of Friends have been researching the role of Cranleigh Village Hospital during WW1.

The 1917-18 Annual Report records that “during the War it has been impossible to do more than just “carry on.””

Whilst other local Red Cross hospitals were at full capacity with military casualties, Cranleigh Village Hospital – England’s first Cottage Hospital – had to manage local accident and emergency healthcare.

During the year 1917 – 18, Cranleigh Village Hospital cared for 77 local patients and 35 operations were performed. One of these patients was a sixteen year old girl, called Lottie, who was taken to the Village Hospital with serious and life threatening burns. Lottie had been in service in Cranleigh as a ‘between maid’ and while lighting the fire ‘her clothing became ignited’.

The Report also notes: “The Hospital has been most generously supported in various ways by its many friends. Frequent gifts of fresh vegetables have been a great help, and the Committee are very grateful to Mr. Boon and Mr. Carrick and others for cultivating the garden free of cost to the Hospital.”

There were also close working relations with Oaklands Red Cross Hospital, a temporary hospital in Knowle Lane, Cranleigh, which cared for convalescent war-wounded and sick soldiers during the Great War. Mrs. Clementina Rowcliffe, commandant of Oaklands, was thanked for her kindness and the donation of a “large quantity of dressings and other nursing requisites.”

Interestingly, Albert Arthur Napper, son of Albert Napper – who with Archdeacon Sapte had co-founded Cranleigh Village Hospital in 1859 – was appointed Medical Officer at Oaklands during its first 18 months. He treated soldiers with gunshot wounds, shell shock, fractures, trench fever, trench feet, rheumatism, bronchitis and other conditions.

By the end of 1918, it was recognised that if Cranleigh Village Hospital was to continue to meet the needs of the District, increased accommodation for patients and staff was needed. Cranleigh Village Hospital expanded in 1921 as a result.

Robin Fawkner–Corbett, Chairman of the Cranleigh Village Hospital Trust, said: “Great acts of service, kindness and generosity were at the heart of daily life in the community hospital in the Great War. It played a vital role in continuing to meet the healthcare needs of the community even in difficult circumstances.”

“One hundred years later, we are delighted to be working alongside Cranleigh Village Hospital League of Friends to improve local healthcare through CVHT’s objective of returning NHS beds to Cranleigh.”

Dianne Davies, Chairman of Cranleigh Village Hospital League of Friends, continued: “In 1949 the League of Friends took over the role of Hospital Trustees, using funds donated by the community to provide vital support for healthcare in Cranleigh. Through our funding of future diagnostic and out-patient facilities at Cranleigh Village Hospital we will continue our commitment to develop and extend services locally. By making this within easier reach for patients and their families we are, with CVHT, helping to improve healthcare for the local community.”