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In the early 1900s, Hardelot was lined with white sand dunes facing the sea and a 600 hectares (1,500 acres) forest. It attracted many hunters of deer, wild boar, hares, rabbits, partridge, snipe and pheasant.

In 1905, an English patron, Sir John Whitley, and his French friends bought 400 hectares (990 acres) hectares of land and created the Hardelot company. Whitley had already owned Hardelot castle since 1897, and was one of the promoters of Le Touquet-Paris-Plage. He wanted to develop Hardelot as a new and fashionable resort and a world centre of sports.

From 1908 onwards, 20 new villas were built around the tennis courts on the seafront by the famous architect Louis-Marie Cordonnier, a friend of John Whitley, who designed these vast and unique villas that today characterize Hardelot. In 1911, aviator Louis Blériot had a villa built near the levee. Around that time, some of the first land yachting races were held here, attracting many followers to the beach.

During the Second World War, Hardelot was occupied and looted by the Germans and blown up by Allied bombing in 1944.

Since then, Hardelot-Plage has been rebuilt. It is still littered with the numerous villas hidden in pine forests which have made its name. It is also a prominent sporting place with two golf courses as well as tennis and equestrian clubs.

Neufchâtel-Hardelot – Wikipedia, accessed 18 June 2011

No. 25 General Hospital

The 25th British General Hospital at Hardelot-Plage was staffed by Australian nurses and English medical officers.

At the beginning of June, 1917, a War Office letter was received, requesting that these members on duty in Imperial units might be grouped together in three British units, working under Matrons of their own service. It was decided therefore to hand over:

No.25 General Hospital requiring staff of 100
No.5 Staty. Hospital requiring staff of 20
No.38 Staty. Hospital requiring staff of 35

The Matron-in-Chief A.I.F. was asked to suggest the grouping of members, and to nominate the Matrons. The Matrons chosen were:-

No.25 General Hospital, Hardelot. Matron A. M. Kellett who took over on 10.7.17.
No.5 Stationary Hospital, Dieppe. Matron J. Miles Walker, who took over on 11.7.17.
No.38 Stationary Hospital, Calais. Matron E.S. Davidson – opened on 14.7.17.

No.25 General Hospital closed for admissions at Hardelot on 8.2.19, preparatory to moving to Cologne, where it is opening without a nursing staff. Orders were received on 20.2.19 for the Nursing Staff (all A.A.N.S.) to proceed to England in parties of 10, and this was carried out, the first proceeding on 26.2.19, and Matron Kellett with the last party on 10.3.19.

REPORT ON THE WORK OF THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY NURSING SERVICE IN FRANCE – E. M. McCarthy, Matron-in-Chief, British Troops in France and Flanders, Headquarters, 31.7.19

A most picturesque spot

Though a little isolated, it is in a most picturesque spot. The sea on one side, with its wonderful beach, where the patients congregated daily in hundreds, and the forest on the other side.

The forest was a great source of pleasure to the Sisters, as it supplied the flowers to beautify their wards. Daffodils, primroses, oxslips, violets, blue-bells, King-cups, poppies, cornflowers, daisies, and numerous other flowers growing in great profusion, in the Spring and Summer, and various coloured berries, and tinted leaves in the Autumn.

The hospital was principally for skin cases. 2,400 beds, and only about 500 available for operations and Medical cases. All the clean surgery of the Boulogne area was done here.

The dressing of some of the skin cases required a great amount of patience, as they took such a considerable time to do, especially head cases, and so little really to show for for your work. The work was very continuous, and had not the glamour of dressing the large wounds, hence in my opinion it was very much harder, and many grousings had I to suppress…

The major portion of the hospital was under Canvas. The Administrative Offices, Main Theatre, Acute Surgical Wards, and Dispensary were in what had been in pre-War days, the Hotel de Hardelot.

The acute medical cases in one of the annexes of the Hotel “Villa Victoria,” and the sick Officers were in two other annexes, Villas “Edward” and “Helene.”

The sisters were billeted in six villas, most comfortably furnished, the only drawback being that they were scattered in different parts of Hardelot. We had one central Mess Room, and in wet weather, or when it was snowing, this was a great disadvantage, but after all, a very minor one compared to the many advantages.

Les terrains de tennis au début du XXième siècle d’Hardelot

The Sisters were able to have as much tennis and Badminton as they liked. There were six beautiful tennis courts belonging to the “Syndicate of Hardelot,” which were rented by the Medical Officers, and they made them Honorary Members of the Club. M.Bleirot, the great French aviator placed his aerodrome at our disposal for Badminton Courts, so we could play there in comfort all the year round.

Matron A.M. Kellett, AWM nurses’ narratives

A dreary tented hospital

… a dreary tented hospital situated on the sand dunes which are on the coast. The patients were for the greater part up patients and I have never seen anything so pitiful as those men crouching round sawyers in the endeavour to keep warm. The mattresses were rolled up and blankets folded so that they could not lie down during the day and they were very badly fed. They all dined in a mess hall and had to line up and wait their turn in all weathers. In September and October the frightful winds were laden with sand and later in the year there were heavy sand storms… The nursing was absolutely uninteresting. The tents were grouped and each group had its ‘dressing tent’ where all the staff nurses of each group stood from 7.30 am till 8.00pm’ (with three hours off some part of the day) and dressed the men as they came in — about 3 staff nurses would dress about 200 patients per day. The sisters attended to the papers and saw that the men did their work in the wards. It was only a few weeks after I went there that winter set in. The tents were of a narrow oval shape and badly pitched as the sand would not hold the pegs, so they always flopped and seemed to be half down – and on several occasions some came completely down causing casualties. They were dark and badly ventilated and the snow beat in at the only opening, true electric light was installed but it was always off from 8.00 am till about 5.00pm so that on grey cloudy days one groped more than looked for things.

Sister Leila Brown, AWM nurses’ narratives


Princess Louise’s Convalescent Home for Nursing Sisters

From the time of its opening until its close, this Home was the very greatest boon. It was well situated in a central position so that many were able to benefit by it. Nurses were sent there to convalesce after sickness – they spent short periods of rest there after exceptionally strenuous work. Those to whom it was possible, were encouraged to spend their whole days and half days there. All were welcomed.

It was of the greatest assistance as regards the staffs of Casualty Clearing Stations; when their units closed, preparatory to opening elsewhere, they were able to rest at Hardelot, under different conditions, and were not too far away to be able to rejoin their units at short notice.

REPORT ON THE CONVALESCENT HOMES FOR THE NURSING STAFF IN FRANCE, 1914 – 1919 – E. M. McCarthy, Matron in Chief, Headquarters, British Troops in France and Flanders

Visited Lady Gifford’s Convalescent Home at Hardelot – 16 nurses were in at the time of my visit, many from Clearing Stations at Bailleul, which had recently been evacuated on account of the shelling. Three more beds are now available for Convalescent Sisters in this Home, making a total of 25. Stayed the night at the Home.

Matron-in-Chief war diary

Sister Olive Haynes

18.4.1917 Kit [McNaughton] comes back on Friday. She has been at Lady Gifford’s Con. Home for a week. She doesn’t like it there much. Too English.

Olive Haynes, We Are There, Too (p201)

Sister Elsie Tranter

15.4.1917 Transferred today to Princess Louise Convalescent Home, Foret d’Hardelot. This place was built by the Duke ofArgyle for the Princess Louise and was used by her as a holiday home till the outbreak of war. Then the Princess gave the place over to the government to be used as a convalescent home. The Matron is Lady Gifford. Her sister, Miss Seymour, lives here too. There is also a French family living here who keep the house and grounds in order. In France, instead of having big orphan asylums like we have, the little ones are boarded out to different families. The caretakers here have one of these orphan boys and he has a bonny time. He has several pet rabbits- such big ones-a donkey and dog as well. We enjoy the meals here very much. Lady Gifford brings our breakfast to us-we do not get up till about 10.30, then have hot milk. Lunch is at 1 p.m., afternoon tea at four and dinner at 6.30 p.m., then we have hot milk or wine before going to bed.

The Queen of Portugal visits here occasionally. When she arrives, Lady Gifford brings her to the door of the big sitting room and announces, ‘Ladies, Her Majesty’, then everyone is supposed to hop up and curtsy. One day she came and one of our Australian sisters was resting on a lounge and instead of making a curtsey, she just got up very leisurely, held out her hand to Queen Amelia and said, ‘How do you do?’

The Queen seemed quite amused…

On the way here from No. 14, we passed several more hospitals. Northern France seems to be made up of broken down villages, hospitals and cemeteries.

There are several English sisters and VADs here, two Canadians, one American, Sisters Stewart, McNaughton and myself (Australians). We three live in the attic, or rather, sleep there.

Elsie Tranter, In all those lines (pp51-52)

Hardelot, Le pré Catelan

Elsie also writes about catching the tram to Wimereux to visit Margaret Thomas at 2AGH, tea at Pre Chatalan, the old Chateau and visiting No. 8 Veterinary Hospital.

First annual report

The 1st Annual Report, dated January, 1916, says: – “Just a year ago this Home for Convalescent Sisters, was opened within the zone of the Armies.’ H.R.H. Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, lent her beautiful house in the midst of the Forest of Hardelot for this purpose. On January 26th, 1915, the first patients were received, and by January 26th, 1916, the total had reached 683. These figures speak for themselves and show that such a convalescent home was certainly needed.

“The house is particularly well suited for the purpose—a long, low building situated on high ground in a setting of fir trees, whose green and brown colouring and sweet scent are most restful to the senses. It has a rough-cast exterior with red tiled roofs and casement windows, and is surrounded by a stone-paved terrace bordered with grass, and in front a low stone wall in the centre of which are steps leading down to the drive. A Union Jack and Red Cross flag at the front gate denote its present use. The house has many rooms and is divided into two wings, between which is a fine billiard room, which is used as the dining- room, and can seat about 30 people or more on occasions. There is another small sitting-room, a comfortable hall and a drawing-room. A pleasing feature of all the rooms is the beautiful open fireplaces—a welcome sight in France!

“The Home is never without patients : the most it can take is 2 2 and it very often reaches that number. Some stay as long as six weeks, some come only for a night; but the usual period is for one or two weeks. The usual daily routine is as follows: – Breakfast in bed at 9 a.m.; this is taken up to their rooms on trays and consists of tea and coffee, eggs, bacon or ham, marmalade, rolls and butter. They generally get up and go for a walk about 11 a.m., and luncheon is at one o’clock, consisting of soup or fish, roast beef or mutton, or chicken, various puddings, stewed fruits, cheese and coffee. At about 2.30 to 3 o’clock an ambulance comes out from Boulogne (11 miles distant) bringing any fresh patients or Sisters who have a ‘half-day’ off duty and would like to spend the afternoon with us. The mail-bag generally arrives by this ambulance, and people and ambulances usually keep coming and going until tea-time at 4.30. Tea consists of bread cut from the very long French loaves, rolls round and crescent shaped, jam, butter, cakes (generally home-made), and tea. About 5.30 or 6 p.m. the afternoon ambulance returns to Boulogne with any patients who may be returning ‘fit for duty,’ and the ‘half-day’ visitors.

“The ‘Despatch Rider’ plying between Boulogne and Etaples (some 25 miles apart) usually arrives at about 5 o’clock, bringing a quantity of daily and weekly papers kindly given by the British Red Cross Society and much appreciated by the occupants of the Home. After tea in winter-time they work and read, and play Bridge or ‘Patience,’ and do picture puzzles. Letter-writing also occupies a large portion of their time, for in Hospital, as everyone knows, letters never get written. In summer, of course, the woods and sand dunes, whose beauty and variety can never be realised unless seen, afford endless attraction until dinner-time. This meal is at 7.30 and is very simple, consisting of one meat course, with vegetables and a pudding, cheese, biscuits and dessert, followed by a cup of chocolate. It should here be mentioned that the Home is fortunate in possessing a particularly good French cook in the person of Madame Famchon, wife of the Duke of Argyll’s old French retainer, who is not above adapting herself to English dishes beloved by English people.

“The newkomers then hurriedly go off to bed to enjoy nice fires in their bedrooms in winter, which are an especial treat in this country; while the older inhabitants resort to the same amusements as before dinner. We are hoping soon for a piano, which will be a great asset. For the first few days they seem too tired in body and mind to care to do anything, and so many are unable to sleep from the strain they have been going through. Those from casualty clearing stations have generally the sound of the guns still in their ears, and are worn out for the time being. But very soon a change takes place, and in three or four days they begin to want to take long walks; and eat and sleep better. The Medical Officer attached to the Home is from 25 General Hospital, about 2 1/2 miles away. We are connected by telephone to this hospital, so that he can be sent for at any moment if necessary, beyond his ordinary visits to the patients.

“It may be of interest to mention the number of hospitals from which we have received patients, and a few other particulars. The Home stands midway between two large hospital areas, Wimereux and Boulogne to the North, Camiers and Etaples to the South; the latter, specially, are vast camps, almost towns, of hospitals, lying under the hills. Our patients also come from the casualty clearing stations, which are the hospitals nearest to the fighting line; and from hospital ships, barges and ambulance trains, from St. Omer, Calais, Abbeville, Le Treport, Rouen, Versailles, and all parts of France. These hospitals represent all the different branches of the Nursing Services in France : Army Regulars, Territorials, Reserve, Military Probationers, Australian, Canadian and American Units, British Red Cross Society and St. John Ambulance, and V.A.D. It can be easily realised that the various uniforms present a very picturesque scene when gathered together at meal times—with the scarlet capes of the Regulars, the grey and scarlet of the Territorials and Reserve, the dark blue dresses with red collars and cuffs and brass buttons of the Canadians, the blue of the Red Cross and black and grey of St. John, and the bright touches of colour from the different American units.”

The British Journal of Nursing, 1 April 1916

Hardelot woods


Photo by a British nurse or VAD who was at one of the British hospitals in the area – see a Great War nurse’s photo album.

Hardelot villas, 2011

Hardelot-Plage villas

Published Saturday June 18, 2011 · Last modified Monday January 30, 2012
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence

We're pleased that people are using this website as a source for locations, quotes and other primary source material. It's why we published our notes on the web. But we'd very much appreciate a footnote or credit. Much of the hospital (and other) location information for Lemnos and the Western Front is original research -- thank you, from Bernard & Cheryl