An Advert in Ormskirk Advertiser – December 1915

An Advert in Ormskirk Advertiser – December 1915

Volunteers on the project spent some time going through the Ormskirk Advertiser for the time that the hospital was open. One of the items they found was a plea for musical instruments that could be used at the hospital because it had “good musicians among the 350 patients”.

“Flutes – Corpl. H. J. L. Smith, 13726, 2nd Coldstream Guards, Moss Side Military Hospital, Maghull, near Liverpool, states that there are good musicians among the 350 patients in hospital and that they are organising an orchestra. So far they have succeeded in making the life brighter for the invalids who are under treatment for nervous disorders contracted by shell-fire and other abnormal experiences. They are badly in want of a concert piccolo, key of C, and a concert flute ,and should anyone have a spare clarionette or oboe it would also be gratefully accepted.”

I was interested to find Corporal Smith’s story. Fortunately Corporal Smith actually gave his service number – which enabled me to trace him, even though he had such a common name!

Henry John Lawson Smith was born in St Olave’s, London, in 1890 to Henry and Mary Ann Smith (nee Lawson). According to the 1911 census, his mother had died, he was living with his father and his occupation was that of an Insurance Agent. His full name, together with his service number enabled me to trace his military record. He enlisted in the first year of the war, on the 14 November 1911 aged 21.

Evidence of the reason why Henry was a patient at the Moss Side Hospital can be found on the Silver Badge Register. The Silver War Badge was issued in the UK and the British Empire to service personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness from military service in the War. The badge, sometimes known as the “Discharge Badge”, the “Wound Badge” or “Services Rendered Badge”, was first issued in September 1916, along with an official certificate of entitlement.

Henry’s Silver War Badge (no 17017) was issued just after this, on 31 October 1916. He had been in the army for nearly two years at this time. The reason for the discharge is given as (392 xvi) which means he was no longer physically fit for war service. It states explicitly that this was because of neurasthenia. This is undoubtedly the reason for his stay at Moss Side. Clearly, in spite of all efforts at the hospital, Henry remained too ill to return to active service.

A short note on the medal roll that listed his entitlement to medals states “Mr Smith states he has no desire to retain his medals” and presumably returned them. This is noted on records to two medal entitlements, which perhaps shows a man who was not at ease with his experience in the war.

Sadly, in spite of knowing Henry’s full name, I have not been able to establish much about him after the war. This is because Smith is such a common name and he may well have not used all his names in official documents such as the 1939 register or marriage. I have found two possible Henry John L Smiths in the London area – either or both could be him. One died in 1970 aged 80 in London, which could be him. I have found another on the 1939 Register, again the name given is Henry John L Smith and his date of birth is 1890. He is married but very sadly is an inmate at a hostel – Rowton House in King’s Cross London – for “down and out” or low paid men. Although he states he is married his wife is clearly not with him. He lists his occupation as “Civil servant.


Written by Debbie Cameron
Edited by Amy Walling, Manchester Metropolitan University


Image Caption: Group photo of patients
Copyright: Image courtesy of Dr Rowlands

Posted on 3 August 2018 under Moss Side Military Hospital

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