W2683a — Mrs Lang Hospital Group, 1918
Image 2: W2683a — Mrs.Lang Hospital Group — 1918 detail showing reader’s grandfather (back row 3rd from left)
‘A Close Shave’ — Mrs Anne Buck, granddaughter of convalescent soldier
Audio transcript at bottom of page
High casualty numbers meant that many civilian hospitals and other large buildings had to be turned over to military use. Convalescent hospitals in Lewes included Hill House Hospital (School Hill), St Anne’s Red Cross Hospital (St Anne’s Crescent) and Shelleys (135 High Street). Wounded soldiers had a distinctive blue uniform and were known as the ‘Blue Boys’.
“I’m looking at a picture of convalescent 1st World War Soldiers outside what is now Shelley’s Hotel in Lewes, which was a little convalescent hospital during the 1st World War. My grandfather Herbert Ablett is a soldier who was convalescing here, he is 4th along on the back row from the left, he is quite short, which I knew he was. He’d only been born 1899 so he was quite young when he went out to fight in France. He was wounded and sent back to convalesce. He was wounded in the right shoulder, supposedly the bullet was deflected from something in his pocket and went into the shoulder, fortunately for him, but that is why he was convalescing.
A copy of this photograph has been in my family since my grandfather Herbert Ablett returned from Lewes just before 1920. I’ve sort of grown up knowing it was somewhere in Lewes, but it wasn’t until I happened to move to Sussex, my husband & I were walking up the High Street in Lewes we realised that the photograph had been taken by what is now Shelley’s Hotel. The original photograph, which I have, has a Reeves mark on the surround and then we noticed just further down the street that Reeves Photographers were still in existence, which obviously amazed us. We went in there to speak to the people and they told us they had still got all the original negatives and amazingly were able to find the original negative of the photograph of my grandfather and his fellow convalescents and print us a couple more copies. So yes. that’s just an amazing story.”