For four and a half years during the First World War there was a Voluntary Aid Detachment hospital at Quex Park. Over 1,600 sick and wounded soldiers – British, Canadian, Australian and Belgian were cared for at the hospital. We know all of them because we still have the Admission & Discharge Registers which list them.
Peter Downey from Kirkdale, Liverpool was a patient in the Quex Park VAD Hospital from 4 May until 20 May 1916. He was suffering “general debility”.
Michael, one of our archives volunteers has been searching for service records of all the patients. He has checked Commonwealth War Graves records too for those who subsequently died – only three deaths occurred at the hospital and many of the patients returned to the fighting after treatment. To date he has found over 70.
Michael found records for Peter Downey in the British Army WW1 Service Records and in the Pension Records. These showed that he had joined up on 8 August 1914. His civilian occupation was a blacksmith. Peter Downey went to France just two days later on 10th August, with the Army Service Corps. No doubt his skills were needed by the early detachments of the British Expeditionary Force, which included cavalry units.
Peter Downey was discharged from the Army in July 1916 on account of suffering from tuberculosis. No doubt the illness that brought him to Quex was the beginning of this. Michael found that Peter Downey died of tuberculosis in Liverpool in February 1918. He was buried there in the Ford Roman Catholic Cemetery.
Amongst his records, a ‘Medical Report on an Invalid’ form dated 30 May 1916 and the ‘Proceedings on Discharge’ dated 1 July 1916 both stated that his illness was due to active service.
However Peter Downey was not listed as a casualty in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records. So we wrote to the Commission to make a case for his name being added. We had to provide copies of all the documents we had found in order to show that his death was due to his service.
A couple of months after our submission we received an email to say that our application was being passed to the National Army Museum for further consideration. A few months later we heard that it had been agreed to add Peter Downey to the list of casualties of the First World War.
The Commission visited Ford Cemetery to search for the grave of Peter Downey and found that it was unmarked. They said that in due course a War Grave headstone would be put in place.
We have just heard that this has been done and we have received a photograph of it. Although the process has taken over two years, Peter Downey is now fully commemorated and remembered by the Commission – and here at Quex.
His gravestone is shown below: