Aberdare Military Hospital

A new information board is to be unveiled outside Tegfan Resource Centre in Aberdare to mark Armed Forces Day, in recognition of its use during the First World War as a Military Hospital, staffed by Red Cross nurses. 

A parade will then follow to nearby Aberdare Park, allowing the public to either join the parade or to line the route in support of our Armed Forces. 

A parachute jump will be performed (weather permitting) by the world-famous Red Devils, the British Army’s Parachute Regiment Display Team at approximately 12pm, followed by the traditional Raising of the Flag Service.  

All of this will then be followed by a celebration of the work of our Armed Forces, with lots of fun and family attractions around Aberdare Park.  

Armed Forces Day is the opportunity for the public to show their support for the dedicated men and women who make up the Armed Forces community, past and present. 

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Deputy Leader, Cllr Maureen Webber, with responsibility for Armed Forces, said: “The unveiling of the information board at Tegfan Resource Centre forms an important part of our Armed Forces Day in Aberdare.

“We once again join together to celebrate the contribution made by those who serve and have served in the Armed Forces. 

“The Aberdare Military Hospital played a vital role during the First World War, caring for injured soldiers who made it back from the front line. Sadly, many others did not make it back.

“The Armed Forces Day event will be a period of reflection of the past and a celebration of the future, with lots of attractions in Aberdare Park as well as the poignant Raising of the Flag Service.”

The Aberdare Military Hospital was officially opened by Lord Aberdare in September 1915. Among the first casualties treated there was Private Rees Jenkins of Oxford Street, who had left his home in Aberdare in December 1912 for Australia. 

In August 1914 he joined the Australian Imperial Force in Adelaide, and was part of the ill-fated Dardanelles Campaign in March 1915, a naval attack on Turkish forces in north-west Turkey. 

Private Jenkins was initially reported missing in action but badly wounded, he managed to make his way back to the British line and was brought back to his hometown for medical treatment. 

Another patient treated at the Aberdare Military Hospital was Private John Armstrong Henderson, who was 21 when he enlisted with the 39th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force in Melbourne on 24th July 1917. 

The Battalion drew most of its recruits from the state of Victoria, where John and his family lived. Having set sail from Australia in February 1918, they arrived in Britain, en route to Suez, after four months at sea. 

Private Henderson suffered gunshot wounds in his back and foot on 10th September 1918, after a 56-hour bombardment as Allied Forces breach the Hindenburg Line, the last line of German defence. 

Initially treated at the Casualty Clearing Station the following day, he was later transported by ship to Cardiff and recuperated at the Military Hospital in Trecynon. 

The following year he underwent a series of leg amputations and was moved to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital in Cardiff, followed by a spell at the 2nd Australian Army Hospital in London. 

Having sailed for home on 16th June, 1919, he was discharged from the Army on 24th August, 1919, and later married Ruby Mary Therese Cochrane in 1940. He sadly died on 20th May 1963. 

The Military Hospital, a satellite of the 3rd Western General Hospital in Cardiff, was run by the Aberdare and Merthyr branch of the Red Cross Society, under the supervision of Dr Isaac Banks, a local Aberdare doctor who gained an OBE in 1919 in recognition of his services at the hospital. 

Although initially designed to accommodate 60 beds, by Christmas 1917 there were 200 patients resident at the Aberdare Military Hospital. By the time it closed in May 1919, it had treated 2,000 servicemen and had carried out more than 300 operations. 

The Council is proud of its Armed Forces Covenant, which sets out the commitment the Council shows former and serving members of the Armed Forces and their families, from financial assistance to signposting to support services. 

It was one of the first Local Authorities in Wales to establish an Armed Forces Covenant in order to reiterate its commitment and value to the Armed Forces, both past and present. 

Armed Forces Day starts with the unveiling at Tegfan Resource Centre, Aberdare, at 11.15am on Saturday, July 1, followed by events at Aberdare Park from noon until 4pm. All are welcome. For further details call 01443 424123 or visit www.rctcbc.gov.uk/whatson

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Team @ AberdareOnline

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