ntil one of our neighbors down the street from us loaned me her copy of No Man’s Land by Wendy Moore I was unaware of this book and unaware of the history of Endell Street Hospital. Thanks to our neighbor I now have had the opportunity to read it. Per the dust jacket, this is the story of “The trailblazing women who ran Britain’s most extraordinary military hospital during World War I.” The suffragette doctors, Louisa Garrett Anderson and Flora Murray, set up and ran the Endell Street Military Hospital in the heart of London. The hospital, staffed entirely by women, was one of the most innovative and respected in wartime London.
Though non-fiction, this is very compelling reading. On May 15, 2020, at the Chawton House Lockdown Literary Festival, the author explains: “My book is a tribute to all the women who worked at Endell Street and all the men who were treated there. I wrote it, really, to give voice to them, but also because I think it speaks to us today, especially today, about the extremes of human endurance of loss and pain and sacrifice, but also courage, dedication, and compassion and simple joy of being alive.”
At the center of the book, there are 14 pages of photos of Drs. Murray and Anderson, staff, and patients, and of the hospital. And at the front of the book, there is a group photo of the staff of Endell Street Hospital taken August 1916. All the better to picture in my mind’s eye all of the events of this amazing place and time.
There is now an apartment building where Endell Street Hospital once stood. One of the residents said, “I live in flats where this hospital used to be. The trees they planted in the gardens are still here.”
There is a plaque at the building that now stands on Endell Street that reads:
“Site of Endell Street Military Hospital 1915-1919. Established in former workhouse buildings during the First World War under the command of Dr. Flora Murray & Dr. Louisa Garrett Anderson, this 573 bed hospital is the only British Army hospital to have been staffed entirely by women. More the 24,000 solders were treated here.” And also on this plaque, it reads, “Deeds Not Words” the motto of the suffragist Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Thus this motto was adopted by Drs. Murray and Anderson. To see the plaque go to Open Plaques website.
I highly recommend this book as a very informative and very enjoyable read.
As a side note on another excellent book:
I was very interested to find mention of the abbey of Royaumont in France in No Man’s Land as I have also read In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl. Published in 2012, this book is set in the ancient abbey of Royaumont in France and is based on the real women who founded and ran the Scottish Women’s Hospitals in France during World War I. It is also a great read and in the format of historic fiction rather than non-fiction. I very much enjoyed looking on line google maps to find the actual Abbey of Royaumont, quite a beautiful place today. These links take you to Royaumont Abbey, 95270 Asnières-sur-Oise, France:
Host’s Note: Many thanks to Jane Raymond (my sweetie) for reviewing this book. I’m still slogging through a monster and will hopefully be able to review it shortly.