914 Gunner Francis E Ryan was a patient at Hickwells in late 1915. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:
May these be the
Worst of your days
Bombardier F E Ryan (419)
Head Quarter Staff
West Lancs Bde.
Underneath this, Nurse Oliver has written, “Now somewhere overseas”.
Francis Ryan was a Territorial Force artilleryman. He misquotes his number as 419 when it should have been 914. When the Territorial Force was renumbered in early 1917 he was assigned the new number 840602. The 2nd West Lancs Brigade Royal Field Artillery later became 276 Brigade, RFA and from January 1916 it was one of four RFA Brigades within The 55th (
Division. The following information is
taken form Chris Baker’s website, The Long, Long Trail:
The brigade remained in
when most of the rest of the division was broken up to reinforce the BEF on the
Western Front. It was attached to the 2nd Canadian Division and moved to England in
October 1915. It rejoined the original division in January 1916. Re-armed with
modern equipment in France .
Redesignated from I England West Lancs in May 1915.
Francis Ryan’s medal index card gives his rank as gunner rather than bombardier and also notes that his medals were returned. He was entitled to the British War and Victory Medals which suggests that he did not serve overseas until 1916.
During his time at Hickwells he received a number of mentions in local newspapers which are reproduced below:
CONCERT AT CHAILEY
A successful concert was held in the Chailey Parish Room on Wednesday evening in aid of the building fund. The programme was composed mostly of items by the soldier patients of
and, judging by the vociferous encores, was much appreciated. A popular contribution seemed to be
‘Hickwells Band’ which, though not very tuneful, was certainly responsible for
plenty of fun. Bombardier Ryan announced the items and gave an excellent comic
song with tambourine dance. Sergeant Sheppard
gave some bugle calls of the British Army.
Driver Bradley kept the audience in roars of laughter with his comic
songs. Corporal Nash, Lance-Corporal
Smith and Private Allen’s songs were much appreciated. The only civilian who took part was Mr Stone,
who sang a couple of songs. Hickwells
ENTERTAINMENT - A most enjoyable entertainment was given in the Parish Room on Wednesday evening by a number of the wounded soldiers in residence at
. The programme was opened by Miss Sandford
with a pianoforte solo, which was followed by a song, entitled “Ordered to the
Fray” by Mr H R Stone. Sergeant Nash
next sang, “Somewhere in Hickwells
and “Till the boys come home” was rendered by Sergeants Nash and Shepherd. Alexander’s Rag Time Band next gave a spirited performance, the conductor of which,
Bombardier Ryan, can be
congratulated. Driver Bradley was
deservedly encored for his inimitable rendering of “My Beastly Eyeglass” and
replied with a recitation, “The 11.69 Express”.
He later gave “Christmas Bells” and in response to an encore gave a
humorous monologue, “The Single Hair”.
Other items were contributed by Private Jock Allan, who sang “For King
and Country” and on being encored gave the song, “I Love a Lassie”. Later he sang “Annie Laurie” and “Roamin in
the Gloamin”. Corporal Smith sang,
“Somewhere a Voice Is Calling” and sergeant Shepherd gave a variety of bugle
calls. Bombardier Ryan with his coon
song sang “Oh Dem Golden Slippers”. Mr
Stone followed with “To the Front”.
Bombardier Ryan acted as stage manager and his witticisms frequently
caused great laughter. The proceedings
were brought to a close by a hearty vote of thanks being recorded to the
performers, which was proposed by Mr West. France
WOUNDED SOLDIERS ENTERTAIN THEIR FRIENDS AT CHAILEY
The soldiers at
at Chailey were
‘at home’ to their friends on Wednesday afternoon and by way of amusing them
gave two excellent entertainments - one at and the other at . The bugle
called the performers together and when the screens were withdrawn a nice
little group of waxworks was disclosed, Bombardier
Ryan shewing [sic] off their ‘beauties’ in his usual amusing way. Corporal Nash (as St George) and Private
Allen sang the ‘Tin Gee Gee’, Private Wise and Sergeant Calvert making two
fascinating ‘Little Dolly Girls’.
Rifleman Collins, still on crutches, made a splendid broken doll. Lance-Corporal Smith was a Japanese Lady,
and, later on, although only having the use of one arm, cleverly ‘vamped’ some
accompaniments. While dresses were being
changed, Private Hume and Private MacBride sang and danced, and then to the
tune of ‘Here We Are Again’, Hickwells’ Pierrot troupe appeared and gave a
spirited entertainment. Driver Bradley
and Private Allen made excellent ‘Corner Men’ and Bombardier Ryan was capital as the ‘Master of Ceremonies’. The troupe included, besides those already
mentioned, Sergeant Calvert, Sergeant Sheppard, Corporal Nash, Lance-Corporal
Smith, Privates Wise and Holleran, Driver Cleary and Corporal Dicks, many of
whom sang and recited. Two of the nurses
helped at the piano Hickwells Relief
CONCERT AT HICKWELLS WAR RELIEF HOSPITAL - On Wednesday afternoon an enjoyable entertainment was given by some of the wounded soldiers in residence at the above hospital. It opened with a display of wax works exhibited by Mrs Jarley (otherwise Bombardier Ryan) whose antics and jokes caused great laughter. The costumes of all were varied and humorous. This was followed by a number of interesting items performed by Bombardier Ryan, Private McBride, Sergeant Nash, Private Allan, Driver Bradley, Corporal Dicks and Gunner Hume. The parody on “The Village Blacksmith” by Driver Bradley and Private Allan and the song “Macnamara’s Band” by Bombardier Ryan, were specially worthy of notice. Another performance was given later in the day.