For a taste of what visitors can expect from Bourne Hall’s comprehensive exhibition exploring Epsom and Ewell during World War One, the museum’s curator, Jeremy Harte, has given the Epsom Guardian an insight into some of the interesting items on display.  

This week, he explains the story behind why a letter box was so crucial to injured troops at Horton Hospital...

"On the outbreak of hostilities, the War Office commandeered the mental hospitals at Horton and the Manor for wounded troops. 

"The previous inmates were transferred to London asylums and a thousand soldiers took their place. 

"Most of these men were suffering from wounds inflicted by gunfire or shells.  Gas injuries and shellshock were present but infrequent and venereal disease, contrary to rumour, was rare. 

"Whenever possible, injured men from Epsom were returned back home. 

"Ernie Brown, previously goalkeeper for Epsom Town, was cheered when he came off the hospital train. 

"It pulled up at a West Street siding where the wounded could be carried into Ford ambulances, and were taken to the War Hospital where the men filled 33 wards. 

"They were dressed in blue to identify them as casualties and stop them sneaking off for a drink in the town. 

"In all some 55,000 wounded service men passed through the hospital. 

"This letter box was used by the wounded soldiers to put letters which would be collected by the post office and sent home. 

"Mail was considered just as important as food and other war materials and the post office delivered thousands of letters a day to the Front and to hospitals.

"Wounded soldiers needed to tell their families where they were and how they were getting on." 

Bourne Hall’s exhibition, Epsom and Ewell in the Great War, will be on display at the museum, in Spring Street, Ewell, until December 31.


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