Retirees Go Abroad –Bristol and Bishop’s Knoll

There was a “Bristol during WW1” Remembrance Day exhibition on display at the M Shed. The receptionist recognising our accent invited us to particularly look at the display on private hospitals for soldiers at that time. Amongst the memorabilia war this article about an Australian who threw open his home for Australian soldiers. Here is an excerpt for Bishop’s Knoll and the web links.

“Bristol’s Australians- only hospital

With the outbreak of the First World War a number of wealthy families offered to turn their mansions into convalescent hospitals for wounded soldiers. Bishop’s Knoll War Hospital stands apart as it was the only “make shift” hospital in the area that accepted patients directly from the front. Eventually it was to be used only by Australian soldiers, and it was entirely paid for by former Gloucestershire cricketer Robert Edwin Bush.

Years before the war Bush played for the county alongside the greatest cricketer of all time, WG Grace, but after hanging up his bat Bush spent many years in Australia as a sheep farmer, and made a fortune. On returning to Bristol at the turn of the 20th century, he and his wife Marjorie took up residence at Bishop’s Knoll. With the outbreak of war, Bush wanted to play his part and so set about converting his family home into a war hospital for wounded soldiers.

Having made his fortune in Australia Bush wanted to repay the country that made him so wealthy, and so wanted his home to be used only by Australian soldiers. To start with the Australian authorities refused his offer, before saying that if he wanted to do this then it would have to be staffed by Australians too. Bush disagreed, but finally won his battle in 1916, and for the remainder of the war only soldiers from Down Under were treated at Bishop’s Knoll.

Hundreds of Anzac soldiers came through the gates of the Knoll including Victoria Cross winner John Patrick Hamilton. The care was reported as second to none with Bush himself working there as an orderly. The hospital history reports that after the war a fight broke out in an Australian bar between two men who had been looked after in the West of England during the First World War, both arguing the place they had been treated was better than the other. It was only after the fight that both men realised that they actually been treated at the same hospital – Bishop’s Knoll.

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