In Pictures: exhibition reveals real life war stories
A new pop up exhibition is revealing the story of how Wrest Park was the first country house to take in convalescing soldiers during the First World War.
Among the first to visit the display were Alan Wilmhusrt and Simon Passey - relatives of Jack Wilmhurst who convalesced at Wrest Park in 1914 for two weeks after being wounded at Ypres.
Cedric Church whose father Albert Victor Church worked at the estate before and during the war also attended a preview of the exhibition.
Albert started working at Wrest Park as an apprentice plumber in 1911 aged just 14 and could often be seen walking around the service yard with his pet jackdaw, which could talk.
He was responsible for the three newly installed engines that supplied the hospital with water and electricity.
He also drove one of the 60mph Napier ambulances and these important duties meant he was able to delay being conscripted for military service until 1916.
Both Albert and Jack’s stories form part of the display.
The country house opened its doors just two weeks after the Battle of Mons, the first major engagement of the war involving British troops on September 7, 1914.
It became a hospital in November that year.
In the drawing room of the Bedfordshire house visitors can discover how Wrest Park and its grounds were put to use as a hospital.
There are graphics and an audio-visual display telling the stories of the people who worked and convalesced there using historic photographs and vivid diary extracts.
The displays show how the rooms would have looked and how they were used during that time.
In all 1,600 men passed through the hospital’s wards and by 1916 it has the deserved reputation as the best country house base hospital.
By 1918 there were 1,484 such hospitals, providing 84,689 beds, as well as a much larger number of convalescent homes where wounded soldiers were sent to recuperate. The Wrest Part at War exhibition is due to run at the country house near Silsoe for the next couple of years.
For more information visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/wrest-park/