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Waley Convalescent Home at Mowbray Park

Waley Home for Returned Soldiers

In 1919 Mowbray Park, five kilometres west of Picton, was handed over to the Commonwealth Government to be converted to a convalescent home for invalided soldiers from the First World War. The home was called Waley after its philanthropic benefactors. 

From 1915 the Red Cross established a network of hospitals and convalescent homes due to the shortcomings of the Australian military medical authorities.  

By the end of the World War One hundreds of invalided soldiers were returning to Australia, and they passed through medical facilities managed by the Red Cross, and Waley was one of them.

Local Red Cross branches and state-wide campaigns organised by New South Wales Red Cross divisional headquarters in Sydney provided funding for these efforts. The Commonwealth Department of Repatriation paid a fee of six shillings a day for each patient to cover running expenses. (Stubbings, ‘Look what you started Henry!’ 1992. pp. 13-14.)

Foundation

The Waley Convalescent Home was created when Englishman FG Waley and his wife Ethel presented Mowbray Park and 180 acres (73 ha), to the Commonwealth Government as a “permanent home for shell-shocked and permanently incapacitated sailors and soldiers”. (SMH, 4 March 1920)  These days it is called posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Waleys had originally purchased Mowbray Park (800 acres, 324 ha) in 1905 from WM Barker, who had had the main house built in 1884. (Mowbray Pk History). Mowbray Park had been the Waley family country retreat – a gentleman’s country estate.

FG Waley was an executive member of the New South Wales Red Cross in 1919 when the family donated the farm to the Commonwealth. Several wealthy landowners donated homes and buildings for Red Cross use as convalescent homes, a philanthropic practice adopted in the United Kingdom.

(Courtesy Mowbray Park)

The Farm

Waley was a farm hospital with about 60 acres under cultivation and the main house supplied with vegetables, eggs, milk and butter from the farms 21 cows and 26 pigs.

Most patients at Waley Hospital stayed at the home between one and three months, with some up to 8 months for those suffering from neurasthenia or hysteria. It was reported that “the quiet, regular life, under good discipline, with a regular work period each day, is the best way of endeavouring to the fit these men for occupation again”.

Activities were general farm work to return the men “to their own occupation”. Major-General GM Macarthur Onslow chaired the farm committee. (Annual Report 1923-24, ARCS (NSW), p. 19.)

The main entrance to Waley Convalescent Home in the early 1920s with some of the Red Cross staff in the background. (Mowbray Park)

Opening in 1920

The home was officially opened in March 1920. The Waley donation of the house was expressed in noble terms as an act of patriotic nationalism. The Sydney Morning Herald stated that

As the cars swung through the broad entrance gates and traversed the winding drive through an avenue of pines to the beautifully situated homestead one realised the noble sentiment which prompted the owners – Mr. and Mrs. F. G. Waley – to hand over to the nation this rich possession. In order that those men whose nerves had suffered from the shock of Year might be given an opportunity of recuperating their health. (SMH, 4 March 1920)

The opening ceremony attracted a list of Sydney notables and the Australian Governor Sir Ronald Munro-Ferguson and Lady Helen Munro-Ferguson, the founder of the British Red Cross in Australia. His Excellency accepted the house and land on behalf of the country. The press report stated:

The Governor-General expressed pleasure at being present to transfer the property from their host and hostess to the nation. “It is,” he added, a noble gift, and I am indeed glad to find myself under this Hospitable roof tree.” (SMH 4 March 1920)

Plaque commemorating the hand-over to the Commonwealth of Australian by the Waley family in 1920 (Courtesy Mowbray Park)

Entertainment

The home received considerable support from local Red Cross volunteers who provided entertainment in concerts, picnics, and library services from its inception. 

For example, in November 1919, the Camden Red Cross organised a basket picnic and an outing for the soldiers from Waley ‘on the banks of the [Nepean] river at the weir’ at Camden. Red Cross voluntary workers provided cakes, scones and afternoon teas for soldiers. (Camden News, 4 September 1919, 6 November 1919)

 In March 1920, the Camden News reported that the Narellan Red Cross donated three bookcases with over 600 books to fill them (Camden News, 18 March 1920)

(Courtesy Mowbray Park)

Staffing

The Red Cross staffed convalescent hospitals with voluntary aids (VAs) from detachments in localities adjacent to the home. In the Camden district, Waley’s opening triggered the foundation of voluntary aid detachments at Camden and The Oaks.

There were three dedicated staff positions for voluntary aids (VAs) at the home drawn from Camden, Picton, The Oaks, Menangle and Narellan voluntary aid detachments (VAD).

During 1919 six VAs from The Oaks VAD volunteered at Waley Hospital, and by 1921 this had increased to 10, with a further 10 VAs from the Camden VAD, who included Mary McIntosh, Miss Hall and Miss Gardiner.

In 1920 Narellan VAs Eileen Cross and Cory Wheeler were volunteering at the home. The Camden VAs put in 117 days in 1921 and 116 days in 1922 at the hospital. In 1922 the VAs relieved the cook and the ‘Blue Aids’ for their days off.

By 1923 there were 13 VAs, with one VA from Narellan Red Cross, who collectively worked 65 days. (NSW RC Annual Reports 1918-19 to 1923-24; Minutes, Camden Red Cross, 1915-1924.)

By 1924 the number of voluntary aids had dropped to only a ‘few’ making monthly visits to the patients.

Ward Waley Home which was managed by the Red Cross (Courtesy Mowbray Park)

Disposal of home

Waley was closed by 1925 and sold off at auction. The home operated from March 1920 to April 1925. Under the Waley deed of gift funds from the sale of the home by the Commonwealth of Australia were distributed to Royal Naval House in Sydney, the Rawson Institute for Seamen and the Sydney Mission for Seamen. (Sydney Morning Herald, 22 April 1925)

Groundbreaking medical care

Waley Convalescent Home was one of Red Cross medical activities that broke new ground in medical care and convalescence for ‘shell-shock’ now called PTSD.

By 1920 the New South Wales Red Cross managed 26 homes and rehabilitation centres, five field and camp hospitals, including Waley at Mowbray Park. (NSW RC AR) There were similar medical facilities in other states.

The Red Cross pioneered this area of clinical practice by providing a level of care and soldier welfare activities never seen before in Australia.

Red Cross duty room with staffing by Voluntary Aids from the Camden District Detachments (Courtesy Mowbray Park)
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Crisis relief in wartime and the peace

Book Review

Ministering Angels, the Camden District Red Cross, 1914-1945.

Author Ian Willis

Publisher: Camden Historical Society

ISBN 978-0-9803039-6-4

Ministering Angels  ‘is an example of innovative and groundbreaking work in local history, and succeeds in demonstrating a new way of linking detailed local studies to larger themes in Australian history’.  Dr Emma Grahame (Editor, Australian Feminism: A Companion, OUP, 1998. Editor, Dictionary of Sydney http://www.dictionaryofsydney.org, 2007-2012)

Ministering Angels, the Camden District Red Cross, 1914-1945 Ian Willis Camden Historical Society Inc ISBN 978-0-9803039-6-4
Book Cover for Ministering Angels (2014)

 

Ministering Angels is a peer-review publication that tells the story of conservative country women doing their patriotic duty in an outpost of the British Empire. From 1914 Camden district women joined local Red Cross branches and their affiliates in the towns and villages around the colonial estate of the Macarthur family at Camden Park.

They sewed, knitted and cooked for God, King and Country throughout the First and Second World Wars, and during the years in-between. They ran stalls and raffles, and received considerable community support through cash donations from individuals and community organisations for Red Cross activities.

 

Using the themes of soldier and civilian welfare, patriotism, duty, sacrifice, motherhood, class and religion, the narrative explores how the placed-based nature of the Red Cross branch network provided an opportunity for the organisation to harness parochialism and localism for national patriotic purposes.

The work shows how a local study links the Camden district Red Cross with the broader issues within Australian history and debates involving local history, philanthropy, feminism, conservatism, religion and other areas, while at the same time illustrating the multi-layered nature of the issues that shape global, national and regional history that can impact rural volunteering.

 

The book delves into the story of how Camden’s Edwardian women, the Macarthur Onslows and others of their ilk, provided leadership at a local, state and national level and created ground-breaking opportunities that empowered women to exercise their agency by undertaking patriotic activities for the first time.

In their wake Camden women created the most important voluntary organisation in district history, a small part of the narrative of the Australian Red Cross, arguably the country’s most important not-for-profit organisation. Their stories were the essence of place, and the success of the district branches meant that over time homefront volunteering became synonymous with the Red Cross.

 

Ministering Angels is a local Red Cross study of volunteering in war and peace that provides a small window into the national and transnational perspectives of one of the world’s most important humanitarian organisations.

Read the book here (free)

For more information contact the publisher:

secretary@camdenhistory.org.au

Secretary, Camden Historical Society Inc. PO Box 566, 40 John St, Camden NSW 2570

Uncategorized

Community gets behind CWA net making during war

Llewella Davies CHS0614

During the Second World War the Camden Country Women’s Association were not the only community organisation to make camouflage nets in Camden.

In May 1941 the Camden Women’s Voluntary Services established a separate netting centre on the suggestion of Sibella Macarthur Onslow, to supply nets to the National Defence League. On one of the few occasions she attended a WVS meeting, Macarthur Onslow outlined a variety of war work that could be undertaken by the women and suggested forming a netting class. She had an immediate response from ten volunteers who were members of the Camden WVS, Camden CWA, the Camden Red Cross and the Camden District Hospital Women’s Auxiliary. The WVS volunteers were Kathleen Clifton, Annie Dickenson, Elsie Gibson, Eleanor Macdonald, Mrs Mackie, Leah McLeod, Harriet Outterside, Martha Poole, Alice Pope and Amy Porter. Typical of wartime volunteering and women of her social rank Macarthur Onslow left it to lower class women to undertake the tedious manual work involved in the dreary task of camouflage making nets.

The WVS camouflage netting class was also joined by two men, Fred Franklin (ironmonger, Camden) and Ted Smith (gardener, Narellan). In July they made two nets, 30ft x 14ft, which were delivered to the National Defence League in Sydney by Albine Terry, the WVS secretary. Each net for the NDL was destined for England, unlike nets made by the Camden CWA which for the Australian Army. Each net contained over 20,000 knots and was considered ‘excellent work’ by the League. By September 1941 ‘good progress’ by the netting volunteers instructed by Franklin meant that another fourteen nets had been sent, while another five were ready for despatch. Franklin was the principal instructor and was assisted by two other men, Ted Smith and Robert McIntosh, a dairyfarmer of Glenmore, as well as Llewella Davies. The nets had included 2 large and 2 small nets, as well 10 khaki nets. Franklin professed his willingness to continue giving instruction in ‘this important work’ and thanked all those who helped him. The contribution of the men to netting was short lived, and there is no other mention made of any Camden men assisting the netting effort at any other time during the war.

The first attempt at creating a joint CWA-WVS netting effort occurred in June 1941, when Rita Tucker addressed the WVS. Despite a directive reported in The Countrywoman in May 1941 from the state CWA discouraging joint netting activities by its branches, Tucker explained that the CWA had the necessary string supplied by the Army, and instructors who were prepared to conduct lessons ‘in this national work’ at the CWA rooms. While Tucker was a member of the WVS, the other women were not impressed enough to take up her offer. Not to be put off Tucker extended an invitation, on behalf of the CWA, to ‘all citizens’ of Camden who wished ‘to assist the War Effort’ by attending netting classes on Thursday nights and Friday afternoons in the CWA rooms in Broughton Street Camden.

Some Camden women including Mary Poole and Llewella Davies, volunteered for both the CWA and NDL netting efforts. Davies was a member of Camden’s elite and proved the exception that was the rule: that while most of the Camden elite did not volunteer for net making, she did. Davies (1901-2000), who never married and was tutored at home then went to Sydney Church of England Grammar School at Darlinghurst. She mixed freely with the Macarthur Onslows, Inglises, Downes, McIntoshes and other members of the Camden gentry. Davies was a ‘tireless’ volunteer who thought it was ‘good to work for the community’. She was a member of a number of women’s voluntary organisations in Camden, including the Red Cross, Camden Hospital Auxiliary, Camden Voluntary Aid Detachment, but not the CWA. In the post-war years she was a member of Meals on Wheels, assistant secretary of Camden AH&I Society, treasurer of Camden Garden Club, research officer of Camden Historical Society and secretary of Camden branch of United Australia Party. Davies took paid work as a clerk in the office of the Camden News which was located next door to the post office. Lewella played golf, and was a representative tennis player and member of the Camden Tennis Club. Davies was awarded an OAM in 1981 for community service, and was made Freeman of the Municipality of Camden in 1992, a life member of the Camden Historical Society in 1994 and given the key to Camden in 1999.
Llewella Davies was one of many local women who volunteered for wartime community service and her conservatism was driven by her family, her faith and her community.

 

Read more about the CWA and other conservative women’s organisations in wartime Camden  @  UOW research

Image: Llewella Davies in Voluntary Aid Detachment uniform 1942 (Camden Images)