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Manchester High School for Girls

LEST WE FORGET – MHSG LOOKS BACK ON THE SCHOOL’S LINKS TO THE WAR EFFORT

As we prepare to commemorate the centenary of Armistice Day on 11th November, we recognise the sacrifice made by so many men and women during the First Word War. In memory of those who gave their lives, we would like to share some of the ways that link Manchester High to the war effort.

Two boys from Manchester High lost their lives on the battlefield

In the early years of Manchester High, boys were admitted to the Preparatory Department. Some of those boys fought for their country during World War I and two, sadly, lost their lives on the battlefield.

Wilfrid Barrow (MHSG 1902 – 1906) served in the 6th Battalion of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. He was killed in action in the Dardanelles on August 10th, 1915.

Harold Thewlis (MHSG 1899 – 1900) was killed in the Gallipoli Campaign on June 4th, 1915. He was 24 years old.

The current Manchester High site was previously home to a hospital for wounded soldiers

Grangethorpe Hospital housed patients who had suffered serious injury on the battlefields and some of the Hospital’s original buildings still form part of Manchester High today. Pioneering work was done there in the reconstruction of damaged nerves of limbs, tendon transplants and bone grafts by distinguished doctors, including Sir John Stopford, who later became Vice-Chancellor at Manchester University; he was also a Governor of MHSG.

Grangethorpe patients had a lot of freedom and there were regular visits to music halls, football matches, theatres and the Manchester race course. Some returned after lights out and had to get back in via the bushes and the high wall by Platt Chapel, which afforded good cover!

Making bandages

Manchester High girls made bandages, jam and socks in support of wounded soldiers

A report in the 1914 school magazine stated that “with the declaration of war at the beginning of August came the realisation of the need for hundreds and hundreds of bandages which could not be obtained in sufficient numbers from the usual sources”. In response, the enthusiastic girls of Manchester High worked for three hours each day to make bandages for local hospitals. Another popular activity was using fruit donated by local market traders to make jam for servicemen in hospitals. The word travelled fast and requests for jam started to come in from Manchester and beyond; the requests even came in from London.

Staff and students volunteered to fill jobs left by men sent to war

Munitions factory

Some staff and students were granted leave of absence from Manchester High to put their skills to good use in hospitals, banks, offices and engineering works. Sixth formers volunteered their skills in the chemical labs of a local munitions factory. ‘Old Girl’, Catherine Corbett, served as a doctor in a Scottish Women’s Hospital Unit in Kraguievac in Central Serbia from 1915 to 1916. Miss Alice Chisholm, who taught French, did voluntary nursing at the Red Cross Hospital in Victoria Park. Miss Gertrude Powicke, a teacher of French and German, joined the Society of Friends Emergency and War Victims Relief Group in France and worked with Verdun refugees. Mrs Moore Mumford, a chemistry teacher, took over her husband’s research work at the University whilst he was away with his regiment.

Belgian refugees were offered free places at Manchester High

Urmston Hospital

The local Urmston Hospital was largely used for the Belgian wounded. Manchester High lent pictures from the School to brighten up rooms and the daughters of refugee families were offered a free education at the School.

We honour and pay our respects to all those brave, courageous and selfless men and women who gave their lives to defend this country. May they never be forgotten.

This article gives a flavour of our involvement during the First World War. If you would like to find out more about the School’s involvement during the War or the history of Manchester High, or if you have any stories, documents, photos or artefacts relating to MHSG and the Great War which you would be willing to share, please contact our archivists at  archives@mhsg.manchester.sch.uk