THIS ARTICLE TELLS THE STORY OF THE MILITARY HOSPITAL L'OCEAN AT LA PANNE.
Hotel L'Ocean was a summer vacation hotel build in 1904, with four floors and 37 beds. It was owned by family Huysseune in La Panne.
THE OUTBREAK OF THE WAR
Queen Elisabeth was the founder of the military Hospital in 1914 and had previously given a wing in the Royal Villas for the wounded. Because of the increase of casualties, a new location had to be found and she commandeered the Hotel L'ocean for her new hospital. One of the major founders was Doctor Le Page, who turned the hotel, under the supervision of Queen Elisabeth to a Red Cross hospital. The financial support was given as a task to Major Gordon, and the hospital was mostly funded by British gifts. The Belgian army delivered for the staff and needed vehicles. A second task for Major Gordon was to buy most of the equipment in London because the Queen always wanted to use the best materials. Because of Dr Depage's relationships, the hospital was well supported by high standing personnel. This was ... for the staff of the 'Service de Santé' of the Belgian Military under command of General-Doctor Melis. On many occasions had the Royal family to interfere with both doctors. Doctor Depage, who was a Colonel-Doctor, surrounded himself with a permanent team. He chose his doctors from the mobilised Belgian troops. The nursery was occupied by a woman from the nursery schools from England, Canada, US and Denmark. The entire personnel was housed in some twenty villas in the nearby area. The hotel had some 100 chambers over 5 floors, and the hospital was provided with some 200 beds but could be extended to 2.000. The hospital had two operation rooms, this was done to aid the heavily wounded, that was brought in by the Red Cross at once and decrease the deathly casualties. Many of the personal where a specialist's in skull, chest, abdomen, fractures, etc. There was also a dentist and biomedical laboratory.
Early in 1915, de hospital expended with wooden barracks around the hotel. The first pavilion housed 100 beds and was called the British Pavillon, the second housed 240 beds and was called Pavillon Everyman), the birth housed 300 beds and was named after the King and Queen (Albert-Elisabeth), this pavilion was destroyed in the same year by fire. The fourth and last one housed only 40 beds and was made to receive the freshly wounded.
On 5 March 1915, an article was published that the Belgian Red Cross society was created:
Sir,- We beg to advise you that the Belgian Red Cross was created, under the patronage of H.M. the Queen of the Belgians, an Anglo-Belgian Committee, in order to represent officially the interest of the Belgian Red Cross, to the exclusion of any other organisation or person, throughout England. The members of the Anglo-Belgian Committee are - President Baron C. Goffinet, Plenipotentiary Minister, Vice President of the Belgian Red Cross Members: The Earl Curzon of Kedleston; Major A. A. Gordon; The Honourable Arthur Stanley (MP), President of the Joint Committee of the British Red Cross and St. John Ambulance; Paul Hymans, Minister of State for Belgium. Hon. Secretary: Louis Lasard - Judge at the Brussels Court of Commerce.
Kindly note that all communications concerning the Belgian Red Cross are to be addressed to the Anglo-Belgian Committee, at their offices, Savoy Hotel, London, W.C.
We are, dear sir,
Baron C. Goffinet - President
Louis Lazard - Hon. Secretary
On 23 April 1916, a statement was published in the Sunday Mission about an account that occurred in the Hospital at La Panne.
One day Prince Alexander of Teck presented himself at the hospital with a brother officer, who told the nurse at the door that they came from the British Mission. "Oh!" called out the nurse to the matron, "there are two young men here from the Y.M.C.A."! When the King of the Belgians paid a visit to the hospital at La Panne all British nurses referred to him as "Our King" and he returned the compliment by telling the matron that "British nurses were the best in the world." The King made all the nurses gifts of chocolates.
WARTIME GRAVE OF MARIE PICARD
Dorothy Liddell was the sister of Victoria Cross winner John Aidan Liddell who died at La Panne. Dorothy worked after her brothers death in the hospital L'ocean till the end of the war, urning her the M.B.E. Her lifetime ambition was to became an archaelogist and she had the opportunity to be part of the excavation at Windmill Hill, Avebury from 1925 till 1929.
Alexander Keiller, a scottish archaeologist, dedacted the museum, that was erected in his name to Dorothy Liddell, short after her death in 1938.
Miss Anne Godfrey was mentioned as a violinist who played for the wounded in L'ocean in the "Graphic gazette' on 18 March 1916.
Antoine Depage was born in 1862 at Bosvoorde, Belgium. He grew up in a family of local notables who were active in the agriculture and merchants. His school studies were not magnificant and teachers call him a undisciplined student. After his (difficult) graduation, he choice to work on his parents farm, but this was whitout consent of the family Solvay, who were neighbourgs of the Depage family. They encourage him to go to the university, and he choice to take courses in medicine, because the entery money was the lowest in this courses. In 1887, in his own surpise, he graduated as a doctor.
During his studies he was teached by Paul Héger and fell later in love to his niece, Marie Picard. Antoine and Marie married later in 1893.
Between 1890 and 1913, Antoine Depage practicesed his profession as a surgeon. He testifies about the bad cares of the patients in the hospitals, and hereby establishes a first nursingschool at Elsene in 1907, called 'L'École Belge d'Infirmières Diplômées'. The nursingschool was led by the famouse and later martyr Miss Edith Cavell.
I'm at the Belgian Red Cross Hospital to-night. Have had supper and have been
given a room on the top floor, facing out over the sea. This is the base Hospital for
the Belgian lines. The men come here with the most frightful injuries. As I entered
the building tonight the long tiled corridor was filled with the patient and quiet
figures that are the first fruits of war. They lay on portable cots, waiting their turn
in the operating rooms the white coverings and bandages not whiter than their faces.
11 pm - the night superintendent has just been in to see me. She says there is a baby
here from Furnes with both legs off, and a nun who lost an arm as she was praying
in the garden of her convent. The baby will live but the nun is dying.
She brought me a hot-water bottle, for I am still chilled from my long ride, and sat
down for a moment's talk. She is English, as are most of the nurses. She told me
with tears in her eyes of a Dutch Red Cross nurse who was struck by a shell in Furnes
two days ago as she crossed the street to her hospital, which was being evacuated.
She was brought here. "Her leg was shattered," she said. "So young and so pretty she
was too! one of the surgeons was in love with her. It seemed as if he could not let her
die." How terrible ! for she died.
"Bud she had a casket" the night superintended hastened to assure me. "The others,
of course, do not. And two of the nurses were relieved today to go with her to the
grave." I wonder of the young surgeon went. I wonder -
The baby is near me. I can hear it whimpering.
MIDNIGHT - a man in the room next to me has started to moan. Good God, what a place ! He has shell is both lungs.
2.A.M. I cannot sleep. He trying to sing "Tipperary". English battleships are bombarding the German batteries at Nieuport from the sea. The windows rattle all the time.
6.A.M. A new day now. A grey and forbidding down. Sentries every hundred yards along the beach under my widow. The gunboats are moving out to sea. A number of French Aeroplanes are scouting overhead.
The man in the next room is quiet. Imagine a great seaside hotel stripped of its bands, its gay crowds, its laughter. Paint its many windows white, with a red cross in the centre of each one. Imagine its corridors filled with wounded men, its courtyard crowded with ambulances, its parlours occupied by convalescents who are blind or hopelessly maimed, its writing room a chapel trimmed with the panoply of death. For bath - chairs and bathers on the sands substitute long lines of weary soldiers drilling in the rain and cold. And over all imagine the unceasing roar of great guns.
Then, but feebly, you will have visualized the Ambulance de L'ocean at La Panne.
Marie Picard was born in 1872 at Elsene, Belgium, as the daughter of Engineer Emile
Picard and Victorine Héger. Marie met Antoine Depage, because of her uncle, who was
a medical Tudor in the University of Brussels. The couple later married in 1893 and had
In 1903 established Marie and her husband the surgical institute at Berkendael. The
institute laid the basis to the first Belgian medical school in 1907, which was let by the
later martyr Edith Cavell.
During the Balkan war, Picard left with a medical unit and served in the hospital Tach
Kicha in Constantinopel. Her oldest son served also with a field ambulance.
At the outbreak of the war, Dr Depage en Marie Picard established a military hospital
at the Belgian Royal Palace. Later the couple will establish two more hospitals in Calais,
where the Belgian medical units where situated. After the German were halted at the
Yser, Queen Elisabeth asked the couple if they would establish a military hospital at the
L'ocean hotel in La Panne. Dr Depage and Marie Picard worked close together with Major Gordon to get supplies in London. Marie Picard, later left to America for the funding of the hospital and achieved in getting a substantial amount of money. She returned in May 1915 with the Lusitania to Europa. The ship was later hit by a German torpedo. Marie Picard, together with doctor James Houghton aided the passengers into the lifeboats and nursed wounded sailors and the boxer Matt Freeman. When the water reached the upper deck, she jumped in the water, but got stuck in a net and drowned. Her body was brought back to La Panne where she was buried in dunes until she was reburied in 1920 at the cemetery of Bosvoorde.
On 31 July 1915, in the region of Ostend-Brugge-Gent, a British plane was flying against
a blue cobalt sky for reconnaissance of the German transport roads and movement. The
Germans who were preparing for a British invasion had brought in thousands of German
workers, troops and naval warfare material didn't appreciate the presence of the enemy
aeroplane and opened with all the anti-aircraft guns they had placed in a battery in
miles around. The plane was seen single-handedly turning, twisted and diving from the
fierce flame-grey shells that was only protected by Divine provenance. All of a sudden
the aeroplane was masked by an ominous grey shell burst. Tumbling, turning, twisting,
plunging headlong like a stone, it swept down into view below. The German guns
stopped firing and all the soldiers watched and waited for the moment of impact.
Exultance, however, robbed the German gunners from their customary caution, when
the aeroplane snatched of the very jaws of death and the Germans astonished what just
had happened opened fire again after a brief moment.
The aeroplane was flown by John Aiden Liddell and his observer. The two men had given
the task of frustrating the German invasion of Britain. When both men were halfway on
the reconnaissance, they found themselves between Ostend and Bruges - Twenty miles
across the lines - one a shrapnel shell burst violently against the side of the aeroplane,
badly smashing the control wheel and throttle control and shattering his right thigh.
His companion later describes that Liddell at that point had lost consciousness and that the plane pitched down giddily in a headlong dive of 3000 feet. Only the upward rush of air from that desperate plunge served to bring Liddell back to conscious from his death-like faint and then he recovered himself only by an almost superhuman effort. Weak and exhausted by the sudden loss of blood, suffering excruciating agonies from the gaping wound in his side; and fired at incessantly from all side, he stood that terrible strain. He was determined to prevent his observer from being taken prisoner and the valuable information which they had gleaned falling into the enemy's hands. Eventually, he landed his aeroplane will within the British lines, half an hour after he had been wounded, as deftly and as neatly as returning from a normal flight. He was carried immediately to the neighbouring hospital of La Panne. He was put in the care of Mrs Fenwick and his observer Mr Peck accompanied him. On 13 August 1915, Mrs Fenwick states in her diary that Captain Liddell's leg is doing badly and will have to be cut off after all, but we still hope not. Three days later she said that Liddell isn't doing well. On 17 August the decision was made to amputate his leg of the day after. In the afternoon, Prince Alexander of Teck entered the hospital and informed him that he would be awarded the Victoria Cross, which made him so happy. Two days later, Mrs Fenwick wrote in her diary, that Liddell's leg was amputated but that he had blood-poisoning all over his body and that she feared for his life. On 21 August 1915, the British mission wired for his mother and she crossed the channel to be with her son. During these days Major A. A. Gordon had visited his fellow Scotsman Liddell many times and in the final days of his life, he asked he would like something from London because he was heading in a few days. Liddell asked a dozen bottles of Perrier water and Major Gordon sent it as soon as he arrived in London. Captain John A. Liddell, unfortunately, died on 31 August 1915. Only two days later, the package with the water bottles would arrive in the hospital.
John A. Liddell had a quiet undemonstrative youth and was a shy boy who was the last man anyone would ever consider to be so brave and gallantry. He was one of those rare characters which chose to give rather than to ask, and in the giving knew neither fear nor despair. After his death, his mother brought his body back to Britain and buried him at The Holy Ghost Cemetery in Basingstoke, where he still rests today. His sister Dorothy, travelled soon afterwards to La Panne to volunteer in the hospital where her brother died, she worked there till the end of the war.
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