Following on from my visit to the archives last week I have been spending time in my studio looking through the Admissions and Discharge Book for Dane John VAD Hospital. The book records 101 wounded men from 1916 -1918 and a further 16 on a separate piece of paper found slipped into the back of the book.

Given that the hospital had 115 beds and operated from 1914 – 1919 it is safe to assume that this book is just one of many and perhaps the only one to survive. Interestingly it records only the names of soldiers serving with the Australian Forces, whilst a loose piece of paper at the back records the names of men from both British and Australian Forces. Again, only an assumption, but it seems that different nations forces were recorded in separate books.

This book relates to the photographs I wrote about here, in that they are both from the Dane John Hosp and it was with an element of excitement that I had the notion that the book might make it possible to identify some of the men in the photos. The sad reality is that this was not possible and so I now have faces without names and a list of 117 names without faces.

How do we remember someone we never knew? How do we remember a person who we know what they look like but don’t know their name? How do we remember a name without a face? Remembrance seems to focus primarily on those who lost their lives with this statement about Remembrance on the Royal British Legion website

The Legion is the national custodian of Remembrance, safeguarding the memory of those who fought and died in conflict.

And although the sale of the Poppy raises funds to support the living I wonder how many people on Remembrance day, particularly during these centenary years of WW1 do just that, remember the living.

Remembrance Day was not conceived until the end of WW1, it was conceived to remember those who lost their lives, as a communal act of mourning, taking place in subsequent years around war memorials listing those who had died.

I would really like to hear any thoughts those who read this may have about Remembrance.

These thoughts bring me back to my research in the archives.

The men in the photos and listed in the book may well be men who survived and it is my feeling that both their anonymity and their survival equates to a form of forgetting. There is no way of searching for their names in the archive, no way of a descendant ‘finding’ them. I seem to have taken on the task of trying to find out more about the men listed, with my research now taking me to the Australian Governments Army Records. It’s a long slow process.

This fracturing of identity has led to the first ideas for a body of work with a working title Remember Me.

Remember Me – both a question and an instruction. The initial work an attempt to express ideas around the act of Remembrance and my initial responses to the experience of my research.

There are a few more ‘finds’ from the archive that I want to write about before I share images of the work I am making. As with most of my work it is becoming multilayered with cross-overs to other projects and ongoing work from my own family archives but I hope that in writing and sharing the research before showing the work it may help to explain it all. Or maybe not.

All images by permission of Canterbury Cathedral Archives.

Cat no CC/W26/A/7


Very few hospital records exist from WW1 and so I was rather excited to discover that the Canterbury Cathedral archives hold the Dane John VAD Hospital Admissions and Discharge Book.

This rather lovely book, printed and probably bound by Burrup, Mathieson and Sprague Ltd, London. Another interest of mine is letterpress and the history of the print industry and who knows if that little piece of information might be interesting or useful at some future date.

The book holds the name, rank, regt no, age, injuries, date of transfer and other hospitals transferred from/to, of the men who were cared for at Dane John VAD Hospital from 1916 – 1918.

As an object it holds so much grief and anxiety contained within the neatly written entries, each one brief and to the point. No place for emotions.

I found I could not read it within the Cathedral’s Reading Room for fear of tears falling onto it and so I have photographed each page to read at home, in private, as I feel befits what this object represents.

I will write more about it once I have ‘opened’ it’s pages.

Ideas for work are beginning to form, but I am not rushing it. I have faith in my own process of working and know i have to do the research first. The ideas will then begin to arrive – probably at 2am!

Catalogue reference CC/W26/A/7

All images by permission of Canterbury Cathedral Archive


Over the last two visits to the Archives I have been accessing several files that relate to the Dane John V A D Hospital. The hospital at Dane John House (now known as Chantry Hall) was used as a Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital with 115 beds from 1914 – 1919.

There are 3 photos showing patients and nursing staff in what looks like a small room. There are two beds visible in the images but difficult to tell if there are more out of shot. The photographs were taken by J G Charlton of 24 Mercery Lane, Canterbury but give no further detail.

There are several clues in the images – the chrysanthemum’s in the vases and the ghostly outline of a bare tree through the window, that might indicate that the photos were taken October/November time.

Other details in the photos show charts hanging behind the patient in bed

There is an embroidered emblem on the bed cover that I think says KVAD probably referring to Kent VAD – who did the embroidery?

A number of personal items on the bedside cabinet – a bottle of ink and what looks like a letter – who was it from/to?

Watches with unreadable times

An emblem on the men’s jackets saying VAD K70

All details revealed in close up shots of detailed sections of the originals. Hi res scans would no doubt reveal more but I am not sure this would be possible but is on my list of questions to find out

And of course the people in the photos. Staring at us from out of the two dimensional boundaries of the image. Their gaze direct and unfaltering, alive across the span of 100 years.  An anonymous gaze. Their current anonymity an uncomfortable reality. They are currently just a number in an archive, a number that identifies a series of photos. Further research may rectify this but it is a long shot.


All images with kind permission of Canterbury Cathedral Archives