The First World War could be brought “very near” at times for people in Belper, especially when injured troops arrived at the town’s Red Cross hospital with stories from the Front.
Green Hall at the top of King Street was loaned by the Strutt family and started treating wounded troops from December 1914. More than 3,000 soldiers would be cared for in its 40 beds and modern operating theatre before the end of hostilities.
Belper News reporters at the time would often visit the hospital in search of interesting tales from the Front - in some cases just a few days after they occured.
One such story involved Private Stokes of the 2nd Welsh Regiment who reached the hospital just two days after being injured.
“The reason we came over so quickly was that the Germans bombarded our field hospital at Bethune,” Private Stokes said.
“We expected to rest about 24 hours there but when they started shelling us the hospital people packed as best they could and took us all down country so that we crossed over immediately.
“We came out of the trenches after a terrible time. The Germans are still struggling to capture the railway and canal there and are bombarding the bridge with heavy guns. Several of our chaps were killed in getting to their posts by the exploding shells.
“We have an armoured train there mounted with heavy naval guns and it is doing excellent work. I just missed that great battle on the 25th in coming out of trenches as I did on the previous day, but from what the wounded chaps who caught us up said it was the hottest fight they had ever been in.”
During the interview Private Stoke and other men from the regiment who were being treated at the hospital had “many amusing stories” to narrate about “Scottie” Simson who appeared to be the life and soul of the 2nd Welsh.
Private Stokers continued: “He (Scottie) doubled a waterproof coat and held it above the trenches on two poleswhile the German fire at it. He shouted to them that they could not hit the parish in which he wasand I’m sure the Germans must have heard the laughing from their trenches.”
• We are telling a series of stories of Belper’s involvement in the First World Ward over the coming months as part of our Pennies for Heroes campaign.
Donate your jam jars of pennies at Belper’s British Legion on Strutt Street.
We are aiming to have enough to install a mature tree and possibly a plaque in August or September time as a fitting memorial to those who sacrificed their lives in the town during the war.