Tag Archives: Military Hospital

1924 : Fireman Aged 7

From the Belfast Telegraph – Tuesday 05 February 1924, via the British Newspaper Archives. which requires a subscription.


When Mitcham Fire Brigade turned out yesterday people in the streets were amused to see following at a long distance behind the engine a smaller fire tender complete in every detail pedalled by a very small boy fully equipped as a regular fireman. It was a model exact in every detail — just a third the size of the Mitcham motor tender and escape — made by Fireman A. Palmer Riley, of the Mitcham Brigade, for his 7-year-old son, Alexander, who is as keen as his father on fire engines and fire brigade work. This was young Alec’s first appearance with his wonderful machine.

His father, who is a master plumber and sanitary engineer at Collier’s Wood, later told a “Daily News” correspondent — “My son is a born fireman and runs after fire engines wherever be sees one. He continually worried me with questions, so in my spare time I made him an engine, or rather a tender for himself. I finished it on Saturday. It is an exact scale model of the Mitcham tender, minus the driving engine. It is made of wood, steel, and brass, the rod work being old gas tubing. A steel tank inside it will hold two gallons of water and what is called a first aid supply.

“A five foot escape is on top, two chemical extinguishers at the rear made out of salt tins, and a complete tool outfit and hose piping are carried. Two electric headlights and a searchlight and a resounding brass warning bell, all made by myself, are other main features.”

Alec wears a brass helmet and axe, also made by his father, and a full fireman’s uniform made by his mother. Mr. Riley is a remarkable fireman. He speaks French fluently, and understands modern Greek, Italian and Spanish. For years he travelled as a highly skilled craftsman in all the countries of Europe for big London firms.

From Ancestry.com:

1911 Census

Alexander Palmer Riley, aged 32, was living at 10 Park Road, Colliers Wood with his wife Alice Gertrude, 29, and their daughter Alice Eileen, aged 2. His occupation was listed as Plumber Gas and Hot Water Fitter.

Library and Museum of Freemasonry; London, England; Freemasonry Membership Registers

On 16th October 1917 he is listed as a Regimental Sergeant Major, residing at the Holborn Military Hospital.

England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations)

He died in 1962 leaving £2,664. His address was 2 Glebe Path, Mitcham.

See also report on a fire in 1932

Private Walter Bowers

Born in Chichester, Sussex, he enlisted at Kingston-on-thames, Surrey.

From the Army Cyclist Corps he transferred to the Labour Corps, service number 662161


Rank: Private
Service No: 4
Date of Death: 08/11/1918
Regiment/Service: East Surrey Regiment 3rd Bn. transf. to (662161) Labour Corps
Grave Reference: Z. 323.

Bowers W

He died in the Mitcham Military Hospital (the Holborn Union Workhouse on Western Road) and his name is on the memorial.

His name is on the south face of the Mitcham War Memorial

See list of WW1 graves in the Parish Church.

Holborn Military Hospital

The Holborn Union Workhouse was taken over as a Military Hospital in 1916:

From the Mitcham Advertiser, 4th August, 1916:


We understand that the War Office has taken over the Holborn Institution, Western Road, for the purpose of using it as a hospital for wounded soldiers. It is suggested that the present inmates will be transferred to the Workhouse at Belmont.

1893 OS map

From “Mitcham Histories No. 14 ‘Upper Mitcham and Western Road'” by E.N. Montague of the Merton Historical Society, page  94:

In 1919, after the last of the soldiers had left, a memorial tablet was set in the wall to the right of the main gate, and unveiled by Lady Worsfold of Hall Place. The inscription read “Holborn Military Hospital, Mitcham 1916-1919. To the glory of God and Sacred to the memory of those who gave Their lives in the Great War”, and listed the names of 22 men and one nursing sister who had died there. When what remained of the former workhouse reception building was being removed by demolition contractors in the late 1960s the memorial was salvaged by the writer, and taken into safekeeping by Merton Historical Society.

This memorial tablet is now in storage in the custody of Merton Local Studies Centre. The names that can be worked out from the photo on Merton Memories (see below) are:

Merton Memories Photos

Memorial stone
Entrance in Western Road

News Articles

From the Belfast Telegraph – Monday 09 September 1918, via the British Newspaper Archives, which requires a subscription.


At Marlborough Street Police Court, London, Sydney Moore (32), automobile engineer, giving an address at Manchester, was charged on remand with obtaining £150 from George Godfrey by false pretences. Godfrey, a private in a Reserve Garrison Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, at present an inmate of the Mitcham Military Hospital. It was stated that, seeing an advertisement in a daily paper headed “Urgent Work of National Importance,” he replied to it, and received an answer that if he ordered a tractor plough for land work this would be considered work of national importance, and his release from the Army could be obtained through the Ministry of National Service. He sent a cheque for £150 for a tractor, but had not received it or the return of his money, nor had he heard anything as to his being released.

The advertisement was issued by a firm in Regent Street. Evidence was given that the Ministry of National Service knew nothing of the firm and that the company’s paid-up capital was £2, its nominal capital being £5,000.
The accused was remanded.

Maps are reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.