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Saturday, 23 July 2016

Malvern Stations During World War Two

Thanks to recommendations from several people who have commented on my site in the past few months, I've recently been reading two excellent books on the history of American hospitals in Malvern during the Second World War. Written by husband-and-wife duo Frances and Martin Collins, the books tell the tale of how medical teams were recruited in the United States before being sent to England to look after GIs returning from field hospitals in France. The role of the railways in bringing injured personnel to Malvern is also covered in some detail, and the authors have managed to dig out some fantastic pictures of both Malvern Hanley Road (LMS) and Malvern Wells (GWR) in their wartime role as a terminus for soldiers being transferred from ambulance trains to their new home.

Frances and Martin Collins, Blackmore Park in World War Two (Studley: Brewin Books, 2008), 160pp.

Frances and Martin Collins, Return to Duty: An Account of Brickbarns Farm, Merebrook and Wood Farm U.S. Army Hospitals in Malvern, Worcestershire 1943-45 (Studley: Brewin Books, 2010), 192pp.

There is also a related book, which I have not yet had a chance to get into:

Frances and Martin Collins, Bridging the Gap: U.S. Army Rehabilitation Centres in Warwickshire and Worcestershire During World War II (Studley: Brewin Books, 2014), 166pp.


Another excellent resource on this period is Gill Holt's Malvern Voices: Wartime, an Oral History (Malvern: Aldine Print, 2003), which contains first-hand recollections by Malvern residents of the hospital trains that came to the town during the war. The book is a great read for anyone interested in local history during the war in general, but I have selected the following interesting quotes from it:
'In 1943 and 1944 the American hospitals adjoining our farm at Shuttlefast were now fully occupied by wounded American soldiers. The railway line came through the middle of our farm so we knew immediately when there was a new arrival of wounded soldiers because it used to take two steam engines to pull the long train from Tewkesbury to Malvern Wells.'
- Godfrey Williams (p. 86)
'I lived in Peachfield Road near the Malvern Wells station and the special siding that was built for the American hospital trains. These big trains used to come up the old Midland Line to the junction with the Great Western Railway towards Great Malvern. Ambulances came and took the wounded off the trains to the hospitals.'
- Diana Medley (p. 86)
'Later in the war the American hospital trains were seen with the American servicemen injured in the war. They were taken to Malvern Wells station and transferred to the American hospitals. It was considered a coup to see one of these trains come through because there was no timetable for them.'
- Graham Tipping (pp. 86-7)

Malvern Hanley Road (LMS)


The following pictures come from the records of the 53rd General Hospital which was based in Malvern during the war. The records are held at the National Archives and Records Administration in Maryland. Apologies for the low quality of the smaller pictures - they are being shown in the resolution I was able to obtain initially and I'm working on getting some better quality scans.


These next images show American servicemen alighting from hospital trains on the 'down' platform at Malvern Hanley Road before being loaded into motorised ambulances for the short trip to the general hospitals dotted around Malvern during the war.


Malvern Wells (GWR)


Malvern Wells' Great Western Railway station played a vital role during the war too, similarly acting as a drop-off point for wounded soldiers who were being transferred to American hospitals in Malvern. The siding used for this purpose was removed many years ago, but Adrian the Rock, whose grandfather was the stationmaster at Malvern Wells during the war, describes it thus:
'A shorter existing siding was extended to approximately 240 yards at a gradient of 1 in 300 to accommodate 12 60' coach lengths. The prevailing gradient of the line up to the tunnel is 1 in 80 or 90, so to lay the siding at this reduced gradient they had to lower the ground level somewhat beneath it. I have heard one unconfirmed report that the soil extracted was used to build the flat area that is still on the Wells Common immediately west of the Peachfield Road bridge, between there and the stream and where it dips down to the car park.'
Pictures showing this siding in its entirety are rare, but I have managed to cobble together a few shots taken at Malvern Wells' old yard. The first picture is the clearest, showing the wartime drop-off sidings which lay to the right of the goods loop (i.e. to the west, on the uphill side). The second shot shows a train passing the end of the siding on the goods loop, while the third shows the reverse angle, with the points to the sidings clearly visible in the left of the picture. Robert's Pritchard's picture, meanwhile, shows what the site looked like by the mid-1960s when the sidings had been removed. Finally, my two modern shots at the bottom show how the loop looked before the July 2016 engineering works at Malvern Wells, when it had been left in a very dilapidated condition for several years. As you can see, the wartime siding's former location is now covered by a hedge and the end of a private road.

'7904 Malvern Wells with 15.15 Paddington to Hereford' 28th June 1965.

3 comments:

  1. The up siding that has only within the last few weeks has been disconnected is not the Peachfield Siding. It is actually just the last remaining section of what used to be a more extensive, though still modest, goods yard at the Wells. The track that survived until recently was for most of its life a goods running loop with an entrance by the tunnel mouth.

    The Peachfield Siding was actually the next track beyond this. A shorter existing siding was extended to approximately 240 yards at a gradient of 1 in 300 to accommodate 12 60' coach lengths.

    The prevailing gradient of the line up to the tunnel is 1 in 80 or 90, so to lay the siding at this reduced gradient they had to lower the ground level somewhat beneath it. I have heard one unconfirmed report that the soil extracted was used to build the flat area that is still on the Wells Common immediately west of the Peachfield Road bridge, between there and the stream and where it dips down to the car park.

    My grandfather Donald Wilden, who was stationmaster at Malvern Wells (GWR) throughout the war, also mustered a rake of camping coaches for a small military unit who arrived one day intended to pitch their camp in the goods yard!

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  2. Do you know how I can order copies of the aforementioned books?

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    1. Hi Tess, Malvern library has copies, but if you want to buy some for yourself:

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blackmore-Park-World-War-Two/dp/1858584280/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479239088&sr=8-1&keywords=blackmore+park

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Return-Duty-Brickbarns-Merebrook-Worcestershire/dp/185858454X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479239128&sr=8-1&keywords=return+to+duty

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Bridging-Gap-Rehabilitation-Warwickshire-Worcestershire/1858585252/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479239180&sr=8-1&keywords=bridging+the+gap+rehabilitation

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