Oldham Historical Research Group

'What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
- Only the monstrous anger of the guns.'
from 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' by Wilfred Owen


Boundary Park Military Hospital, Rochdale Road, Oldham

In January 1916 the Board of Guardians of Oldham Poor Law Infirmary received a letter from Colonel William Coates of the Western Command asking them to provide accommodation for wounded soldiers. However it was not until the second week in July that orders were received to prepare the wards for the arrival of wounded soldiers from the Battle of the Somme.

Boundary Park Military Hospital opened on 13 July 1916 with the arrival of 66 men who were accommodated in Wards D and E. The Hospital was part of the 2nd Western General Hospital based in Whitworth Street in Manchester, which occupied more than 20 sites in the Manchester area and at its peak had a total capacity of more than 16,000 beds.

The arrival of the men was described in an article published in the Oldham Standard on 14 July 1916:

'Big Move' Heroes
Batch of Wounded Arrive in Oldham

"On Thursday a number of gallant lads wounded in the big move way over in France arrived in Oldham for medical and surgical treatment, and, we hope, a speedy nursing back to health and strength.

Orders were received at the Oldham Union Workhouse earlier in the week to prepare all available ward accommodation for the reception of injured men, and preparations were hurriedly made for the accommodation of about 150 patients the poor law cases at the time quartered in the most likely block for military hospital cases being satisfactorily bestowed elsewhere in the large building. The first batch of wounded arrived at the workhouse on Thursday. It consisted of 66 men, many of them badly hit, but all - even the worst hurt among them - in the cheeriest spirits and full of confidence as to the future success of the Allies' arms. They are convinced that the big move is going to tell its tale and that it will be found to mark the beginning of the glorious end. The Germans, they all say, are rapidly getting 'fed up' – and losing the stomach for fighting – whilst our men and our French allies were never fitter or keener for the fray

'Win through? Of course, we shall win through!' said one of the cheery chaps. 'and if you ask me I don't think we shall be so long about it either now; not so long be a big chalk as some people would have us imagine. We're getting the men, and we are being well supplied with all those things without which men are no good in modern warfare; and whilst are numbers and our equipment are continually on the increase, we know that in both those respects the Germans must be nearing the end of their resources, as witness the fact that according to our papers calling up the mere 'kids' of seventeen. If we keep going as we have begun – and I know we shall: you trust 'Tommy' – we shall soon have the Hun looking real sick and once we get him on the run it won't be long before we are calling for pens and ink and a bit of parchment in Berlin."

In August 1916 a Military Committee was set up by the Board of Guardians to 'administer, control and govern the several blocks of the Poor Law Institution which have been, or which may be, placed at the disposal of the military authorities'.

The Military Hospital at Boundary Park closed on May 23rd 1919. It was open for almost three years and during that time 1,664 patients were admitted, 1596 were discharged, 16 died, leaving 52 patients at the time of closure. There was £30 left in the fund for providing comforts for patients and the Board agreed that this should be spent on providing proper attention to the graves of the men who had died. Three had been buried at Royton, Hollinwood and Greenacres Cemeteries, with the remainder in Chadderton Cemetery.

Courtesy Local Studies & Archives, Oldham

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