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Gillingham Museum Montage

Accredited Museum Arts Council England

Dorset Museums Association

Blue Plaque Unveiling & War Memorial Service

Plank House - Unveiling of Blue Plaque - to commemorate the use as a WW1 Red Cross Hospital

Sunday 3 August 2014. The Blue Plaque on Plank House is ready to be unveiled. It has been a long wish of the Gillingham Local History Society to mark Plank House and the Masonic Building for posterity. Following an approach by Professor Walker of Plank House it was decided to organise these plaques. Peter Crocker was instrumental in designing and arranging the plaques along with the assistance and financial aid of both the Walker family and the Masonic Lodge.

Several dozen people assembled for the occasion and interest was shown in the photographic display, prepared by Museum Asst.Curator, Alan Whiffen, which showed photographs taken of the Red Cross Hospitals in Gillingham.

L-R: RBL Standard Bearer Tony Otton, Town Crier Dave Wathen, 'Nurse' Donna Toye', Mayor David Milsted, RBL Standard Bearer Allan Bishop prepare for the unveiling.

Professor Murray Walker explains the part played by Plank House in the First World War. Peter Crocker (Past President of GLHS)invites guests to move on to the war Memorial after the Blue Plaque is unveiled by his daughter, Donna Toye.

"30 Oct 1914 - 10 Jan 1919
During the Great War
this building was mobilised as
Plank House
Auxiliary Hospital

616 Army sick and wounded were cared for by local doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers
Placed here by Gillingham Local History Society 2014"

Service at the War Memorial

The Service was led by Rev.Peter Greenwood. After a short commemoration, including the naming of those who died in World war 1, those attended were invited to bring single flowers to place at the War Memorial.



Masonic Lodge,Station Road
Charity Steward, Ray Mitchell, gave a welcome and thanked Peter Crocker and the History Society for arranging the commemorative plaques, before Donna Toye unveiled the new blue plaque on the Masonic Lodge wall.


Royal British Legion, School Lane

The main part of the RBL premises was a redundant temporary ward moved by The Old Comrades Association from the garden of the Station Road Hospital especially for their use as a meeting place.It was first known as the Earl Haig Club. The plaque was unveiled by Frank Burton.

The Background
After War was declared in August 1914, and over the next four years, millions of men signed up to serve their country from practically every city, town, village and hamlet.
Gillingham was no exception with hundreds enrolling, of which 93 never returned, having paid the supreme sacrifice. These are listed by the Gillingham War Memorial.
Hospitals The ladies of the town, together with doctors, and men too young or old to serve, also played an important role in Gillingham’s two Wartime Red Cross emergency hospitals established in the Town in the autumn of 1914.
The first in Station Road, occupied three buildings – The present King’s Court Masonic Lodge on the corner of Buckingham Road; and the adjoining two houses on the north side (now an Optician and a Betting Shop). This hospital was mobilised on 21st October just 11 weeks after war was declared.
The second hospital was opened just 9 days later at Plank House in Wyke Street (now on the junction with Le Neubourg Way). Both buildings are little changed over the years. Causalities came in by train and, dependent on their injuries, were either walked or carried by ambulance to the hospitals. Both hospitals were a joint venture of the British Red Cross and the Order of St John. They treated 1408 Army injured, over the next 4 ½ years.