Saturday, September 17, 2016

Probationer Annie Bertha Hoidge, Sussex 54 VAD

Annie Bertha Hoidge was born in Twyford, Hampshire in September 1882. She was the daughter of William Pearn Hoidge (1842-1885) and Elizabeth Pearn Crosley (1843-1886), and the youngest of six siblings: Emma (1868-1948),  William Crosley (1872-1947), Elizabeth Loveday (1876-1945), Alice Mary (1877-1966) and John Henry (1879-1945).  In 1901, the six siblings posed together for a photo at Alice's wedding. Annie is believed to be the woman, far right.

Annie is also believed to be the VAD probationer who also appears in the Sussex 54 VAD group photo (middle row) standing directly in front of Edith Oliver with her hand raised.

Annie's card from the British Red Cross Archives' file notes that she was engaged as a VAD between the 14th October 1914 and November 1916, and again between the 1st February 1917 and 31st August 1918. She was thus a long-serving member of Sussex 54 VAD and worked at both Hickwells and Beechlands. Her personnel card records her address as Sennocke, Newick; a house that had been owned by her late uncle, William Crosley. He had died in 1912 but it is not known when Annie moved to Newick - or indeed how she was employed. She was certainly mentioned in a report on Sussex 54 VAD which later found its way into Edith Oliver's autograph album.  The date of the report is unknown. 


One of the strongest detachments of the Red Cross Society in Sussex is that of Chailey, the success of which is in a large measure attributable to the influence and energy displayed by the Commandant, Miss Cotesworth and the Quartermaster, Mrs J Blencowe.  Evidence of the good work of the Detachment was forthcoming at the annual War Office inspection, conducted in the newly erected Parish Room, Chailey, by Major Rattray, Brighton, yesterday afternoon.  Three Detachments - Lewes, Southwick and Chailey - compete for the distinction of representing the Lewes Division for the Duchess of Norfolk’s Cup, for which the whole of the Sussex Detachments are eligible, and yesterday’s interesting proceedings will decide whether divisional honours will fall to the Chailey Detachment.  The Parish Room was converted into quite a delightful little hospital.  It was all very realistic make-believe, but the work of the staff was, of course, undertaken as if the unreality were altogether absent.  The main building was divided into two wards for the treatment of surgical and medical cases, various supposed fractures, bullet wounds &c., being treated in the former, and diseases, such as rheumatic fever and pneumonia, in the latter.  In addition to this, an isolation hospital (in which a supposed cholera patient was under treatment), operating theatre, milk room, kitchen, camp fires, constructed with earth work, grease refuse pot &c., the principal idea of improvisation underlying the whole of the scheme.  The Quartermaster’s store was an ingeniously arranged hut adjoining the hospital, and no detail was overlooked in carrying out the idea of representation.  The members of the staff on parade were: Dr Orton (Medical Officer), Miss Cotesworth (Commandant), Mrs J Blencowe (Quartermaster). Miss Gander (Assistant Quartermaster), Sister Osmund (Lady Superintendent), Miss Holcroft (Clerk), Nurses Oliver, West, Pownall, Blencowe, M Blencowe, Sandford, Smith, Hancock, Greer, Grounds, U. Grounds, Smythe, Wilson, Gaston, Hoidge, and Rootes, and Cooks Curtis, Best, Bryant and Pointing.  Miss Campion, the Hon Secretary of the Sussex Division, was also present, and when the room was thrown open to the public later in the day, quite a number availed themselves of the opportunity of becoming acquainted with the useful work of the Detachment.

Sussex 54 VAD was also present at the Red Cross Field Day at Stanmer Park, Falmer in 1913 and I believe that the nurse who is 6th from the right is Annie Hoidge.

Nothing, apart from the scant information contained on her BRCS card, is known of Annie's service as a VAD during the First World War. What is known, however, is that she committed suicide at Sennocke in early 1921. The record office in Brighton has the coroner’s report which records death by strangulation (certified by the same Dr W S Orton with whom she had worked during the war years), the coroner ruling “Suicide during temporary insanity while suffering from neurasthenia, the result of overwork whilst serving upon the Army & Navy Canteen board”. 

The press cutting above was also in the same file. The coroner’s notes on Dr Orton’s testimony have a comment that the neurasthenia was brought on by her VAD experiences in Feb 1917, but there are no further details.

My sincere thanks to Annie Hoidge's great nephew, John Burd, for contacting me and providing me with the information that I have reproduced here.

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