A Happy Marriage from the pain of War

A Happy Marriage from the pain of War

Whilst researching soldiers who were treated at Moss Side, I discovered that one of the soldiers who suffered very badly after harrowing experiences at the Front, met and married one of the nurses at Maghull.

Private Samuel Pickstock was born on 28th May 1895 in Runcorn, Cheshire. His family worked on the Manchester Ship Canal and he was a warehouseman according to the 1911 census. In an interview for The Psychological Impact of War, written by Wendy Holden, his daughter says that he enlisted with the King’s Regiment (Liverpool) aged 17. According to records however, it is probable that Samuel was around the age of 19.  Private Pickstock was initially injured in the leg but ultimately returned to France and the Battle of the Somme. The observation hut that he was in on the front line was hit by a German shell. All the other men in the hut were killed. It was presumed that all had died and so he was not discovered until 4 days later; during this time he had drifted in and out of consciousness. When rescued, and in the weeks following, he often did not know where he was or what was going on around him.

Samuel suffered severe mental trauma following this experience and was admitted to Moss Side for treatment. We do not have his case notes, but according to his daughter, it took some time for the medical staff to realise that he kept re-living and perhaps dreaming of his experiences. He often had to be restrained and sometimes put into a padded cell for his own safety.

Samuel’s daughter Betty explained that he met her mother – Emily Webb – while she was working at Moss Side as a head laundress and part time nurse. “My father was one of the patients and at first my mother wasn’t keen, even though he chased her.” He used to try and dance with her at the dances that were held at the hospital. At first she thought he was just a lonely soldier and not serious about her. However, they grew fond of each other and Samuel married Emily, who was 11 years older than him, on 28 July 1919. According to the marriage certificate, Samuel was now living in Liverpool but Emily was still working at Moss Side, which was the address that she gave on her marriage certificate, meaning she had worked at the hospital for over 4 years.

The accounts of recruitment and termination of staff at the hospital that are detailed in the Minute Books show that there was a very high turnover of staff at the hospital. The fact that Emily worked there for over four years, suggests that Emily was one of the longest serving members of staff. There is an entry on the 1911 census for an Emily Webb, who was the same age, working in a hotel in Blundellsands – her date and place of birth tallies with that of Emily. Her occupation is listed as ‘servant (cook)’. It may be that working at the hospital gave Emily the chance to become more independent and contribute to the war effort; something that many thousands of women were also experiencing at that time.

Samuel and Emily had two sons and a daughter and the family were living in Liverpool at the time of the 1939 census. Samuel had returned to his pre-war occupation as a warehouse man – he died in 1966 and Emily in 1975.

Written by Debbie Cameron

Edited by Amy Walling, Manchester Metropolitan University


Image: Group photograph of patients and nurses

Copyright: Images courtesy of Dr Rowlands

Posted on 10 August 2018 under Moss Side Military Hospital

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