‘Here Gen. Montgomery stayed and ate before the invasion…..’

Ted Applegate

Major Ted Applegate

Just recently I have managed to make contact again with the lovely family of Major Ted Applegate. It is always worth trying the internet every now and then when searching for a lost contact 🙂

Grace, one of his daughters, has recently sent another of her Dad’s letters written while based at the American Army hospital during WWII at Kingston Lacy. We got very excited as it was about a visit inside the big mansion. It is wonderful to get first hand accounts of our properties in the past. A fresh eye on the contents and place and we often glean important or interesting information we would never have discovered in the estate archives.

 Kingston Lacy

Kingston Lacy

We had gathered from other family members of staff who served at the American hospital that they were allowed up to the house and that the officers had use of some rooms in the house. But we had no real details to confirm the past memories and snippets. I have reproduced the letter below as it speaks for itself….

Ted’s letter home –

Monday 1830, 6 November 1944, England –

Dearest Margie

………………I must tell you! I had the most amazing experience today. Ten of us were invited to go thru Kingston-Lacy estate, the manor house. The agent’s kindness was great and he took us thru himself.

As you enter the large entrance hall – all the beautiful marble with fluted columns – the pieces that take the eye are four enormous deeply and intricately carved teakwood chests about four feet high and eight feet long. They are massively exquisite! Swords, pikes, daggers, shields and armor adorn the walls in profusion. The carving on the chests is Jacobean (?). There are two daintily fine French cabinets. Enormous vases stand here and there. Two steps straight ahead take you to a right angle hallway which leads to marble stairs to the left. Here is a Van Dyke painting of a cavalier – another point of interest is a chair attached to a marble cabinet in which is a balance with bronze weights marked in measurement of stone (7 lbs). You sit in the leather chair and weigh yourself. It is 17th century. As you walk up the marble stairway toward a one piece window which much be 6 x 10 feet you are struck by the enormous bronze figures lying on the stairwell ledgers looking down. They are the works of Michael Angelo! The stair makes one (180 degrees) turning and on the walls are two enormous paintings of dogs attacking a bull. They were painted for one of the Kings of France! They were a gift to the owner years ago – or the master as they speak of him.

Now we go into the library. The room is enormous and above the book lined walls are life sized paintings of the ancestors running back to 1700! Some of the books, most of them in fact, are old enormous works of art, some printed by hand! Desks, chairs, footstools are all most interesting, all very old and in excellent shape. I could have spent months there with pleasure.

Adjoining is the saloon. I can’t begin to tell you of half the marvels here. Enamel portraits of many people of the times – most, most beautiful China figurines and some unbelievably delicate. Lace over the hair, around the collars and sleeves which I felt sure must be lace until I looked at it with a magnifying glass. There were some pieces exactly similar to what you have on the way. Two Van Dykes were here.

Now into the drawing room. Twice as big – really an enormous room. (All the ceilings are beautifully painted with figures) the overhanging border near the ceiling looks as though the room as been prepared for indirect lighting. Gold leaf adorns it! Here is an enormous painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds and another by Rembrandt! Many others whose names are not familiar to me, several Dutch names. An ebony and ivory cabinet heavily inlaid with mother of pearl! It is most delicate. A book of signatures bears many King’s names, the Duke of Windsor’s, German Emperor, or Duke of Wellington, etc. etc. I can’t remember everything – museum pieces were in the greatest profusion. Every door everywhere was carved deeply and signed by – Gobelin (?) I’m not sure of the name but he should be famous.

Now into the small or private dining room. The walls are oak covered with the original leather all over. It is dark and cracked. The ceiling is most beautifully carved and covered with gold leaf! Here Gen. Montgomery stayed and ate before the invasion for two weeks with his staff! This room has many pieces about the room from Spain. It is called the Spanish Room.

Now the State dining room. It must be 40 feet square. An enormous massive circular mahogany table in the center would seat a regiment. The walls are oak paneled and the doors are two inches thick plus the carvings which are 3 or more inches bas-relief. Tapestries long on each wall and the most colorful and beautiful I ever saw.

From here we went upstairs again to the bedrooms. About 10 of these have little dressing or sitting rooms adjoining & also a bathroom – but there are no fixtures or tub or anything. The bath was made ready by the servants. All beds are four posters (10 feet). Prints and bric-a-brac of all periods adorn everywhere. Now upstairs again to the nursery and servants quarters. The corner bedrooms are adorned to make them appear as tents. Cords (wood carved) run down the seams from the top from head height they taper to a point. At the head of these top stairs is a low gate (carved, of course) to prevent the youngsters falling downstairs – the servants’ quarters are as nice as ours at home. From here we went onto the roof. The roof is solid sheet lead! The chimneys (4) are enormous and each has 8 big lead rectangular outlets, all of lead. The agent said each weighed 300 lbs.

Now to catch up a few points – a picture in the drawing room – glass encased is worth 1/4 million ($1,000,000). I didn’t hear the name of the author or painter it is Madonna with two children.

The chandeliers (4) deserve a word. Cut glass, very intricate and enormous. Each was alike in drawing room, salon and two dining rooms. They must be 8 ft high and four across. They held I guess 100 candles. How they sparkled.

Now down to the 1st basement where is the room which we would call the den where the gentlemen retired after dinner for their smoking. Paneled walls of Belgian oak, racy and racing prints and prints of beautiful horses, many hunting scenes and such – a wheeled server for liquor and wines and such was beautiful with recessed and carved receptacles for glasses and decanters, all filled with proper glasses. Then across the low ceilinged wide hall to the billiard room with a full sized (not our size) table similarly decorated. The present master has a bed here where he sleeps when he comes here. His sister sleeps in the smoking room.

Now to the kitchen. The original tables and benches and ovens are here! It is enormous, the tops of the tables are 2 inches thick and sturdy as stone. The floor is flagged with large stones. The ovens are built in the wall (new electric stoves stand beside them).

The two obelisks I spoke of previously were brought from Egypt and the cornerstone was laid by the Duke of Wellington, Napoleon’s nemesis.

Some of the doors took 3 years – for their carving – and they look it.

A total of 56,000 acres append the estate. They are taxed all but 6 pence out of each pound of revenue – the gov’t gets $3.90 out of $4.00!

I don’t want to bore you but I wanted to tell you about this. It is all so very interesting to me & I wish you could see it. You would love it. I’d never get you away.

In the library are all the old keys to Corfe Castle, some as long and heavy as my forearm. Many other old relics of Corfe are in the second basement beneath the first but he said he couldn’t take us there. There are 27 bedrooms not counting the servants’ quarters

Here I have done all this writing and no work done so I will have to get busy, my love. If you don’t mind, Mother would probably enjoy reading about these things. I am getting writer’s cramp & can’t make my pen behave – I have been hurrying to get to my work.

How about sending me a couple of pairs of cheap cotton gloves to protect my hands from this coke & coal I have to handle? Did you say you had sent me some nuts? West is going to London next week and will take my film to be developed, then I’ll send it to you.

I love you my dearest, but I wonder if you have read this far. Goodnight and kiss my girls for me – I kiss you in spirit my love – and in person. Again someday I hope – soon.

Always your faithful – servant! and husband,


Thank you once again Grace and family for treating us to such a wonderful insight in to life during the war on an English country estate.



News from the hospital

 The garden steps infront of Kingston Lacy mansion

The garden steps in front of Kingston Lacy mansion

Having just been to hospital having turned my ankle (just a sprain) I thought it was time for a little bit more from the  WWII American Army hospital at Kingston Lacy. We get a great insight into life at the hospital through the letters and photographs we have in the archive, lots of details about the hospital site, staff and patients. From the archive we are even able to get an idea of what they did when on leave or had a day off, including visiting the wider estate and local sights.

At Corfe Castle, in the upper ward the Goriette in the background
At Corfe Castle, in the upper ward the Gloriette in the background

We have a few photographs taken at  Corfe Castle an early  medieval castle, and part of the Bankes estate since 1635. Most of the pictures feature the Officers but in one there is a large  group  including nurses as well.

the exit from the Keep, the main tower of the castle

the exit from the Keep, the main tower of the castle

We were never sure how much access to the house and gardens they had but from the photographs and memories we now know they used part of the house for the Officers and could also visit the gardens, right next to the house.

Corfe Castle main gate

Corfe Castle main gate

View of the castle with Boar Mill in the fore ground

               In the collection of photographs we have received from various families of staff who worked at the hospital we know they visited Southampton, London and even Scotland, this may have been after the war finished and before they went back to America.  

American ships docked in Southampton

American ships docked in Southampton

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Westminster Bridge front of the Houses of Parliament

The Forth bridge across the Firfth of Forth

The Forth bridge across the Firth of Forth

Hospital visiting time again

The hospital sign at Kingston Lacy

The hospital sign at Kingston Lacy

I promised more about the 106th American hospital that was based at Kingston Lacy, near Wimborne in Dorset, so here we go with the tale of a Adrian D Mandel, Bacteriologist.

Adrian’s son John kindly scanned all the photographs he found including what his Dad had written on the back. I  have made a small selection from the large collection and  start  his journey at Fort McClellan, then  a few from his time at Kingston Lacy and finish with John visiting last year the places his Dad had been.

Fort McClellen all ready to go

Fort McClellan all ready to go

June 18th 1944 – ‘Fort McClellan a few hours before leaving, the mens packs are all lined up ready to be slung on the racks. Today is the day we shall soon be off to lord knows where.’

Accomadation block at Kingston Lacy

accommodation block at Kingston Lacy

April 1945 – Kingston lacy  ‘my home in the E.T.O, shared with 15 other men. Triangular affair on the right is our gas attack alarm. The building in the shadows on the right is the latrine or ablutions as the English say. Again note the trees, truly we are in one of the nicest locations in England’

Wimbourne in Dorset

Wimborne in Dorset

April 1945 – Wimborne  ‘people lined up (que up) for ice-cream on one of the first days it was sold after 6 years of war. This so-called ice-cream tastes nothing like American ice-cream – probably due to the war.’

Inside one of the hospital buildings at Kingston Lacy

Inside one of the hospital buildings at Kingston Lacy

January 1945 –  ‘Mandel and Meites and a late night ‘smorgasboard’ after a usual poor supper. Tea, orange juice, cheese, crackers, sugar, sausage, I think Joe is hiding a salami in this picture. Note our  Coleman photo-electric spectrophotometer in the background’

Pamphill Green, Pamphill Manor on the left

Pamphill Green, Pamphill Manor on the left

May 1945 – ‘one of our field days, baseball game between officers and nurses. Nurse Lt Ventre at bat, Capt. Mac Farland mess officer catching, Spectators starting on the left Capt. Wroblewaki, Lt Col Cobb Chief of Surgery,  my buddy Meites and then McNamara the catholic chaplain. The house on the left is where the land army girls were’

The clowns were part of the field day events.

The clowns were part of the field day events.

May 1945 – ‘English children intently watching our two clowns (part of field day) Lt Mc Clellan and Lt Woodin making fun with a deck of cards. Those kids really had the time of their lives that day, including the best meal in 5 years’

Studious scene inside one of the hospital buildings at Kingston Lacy

Studious scene inside one of the hospital buildings at Kingston Lacy

 October 1944 – ‘T/G Flaherty hard at work reading the ‘Stars and Stripes’ “well fellows according to todays paper we should be home by — followed by uncomplimentary sounds from the rest of the men in the hut’

The 10 bed isolation ward building

The 10 bed isolation ward building

John at Kingston Lacy in the doorway of one of only three surviving structures left in the grounds of the house. This is a 10 bed isolation ward, now an archive store.

St Stephens Church on the estate April 1945

John Mandel at St Stephens church Sept 2012

John Mandel at St Stephens Church Sept 2012

I must thank  the families of the guys and girls who were based at Kingston Lacy for the information they give us it is amazing, a field of cows and sheep suddenly becomes filled with people going about their daily lives among the trees.

‘We only get 3 candy bars, a few cookies and one packet of gum…’

The doughnut cafe

The doughnut cafe

Seventy years ago does not seem to be ‘the past’, but our world has changed so much in that time, it is very old to our modern eyes. Most archaeologists see the past as starting just a moment ago, its not just pre-history that interests us, it is all time from then till now as well. What ever humans have left behind to tell us about their lives catches our attention. In the case of Kingston Lacy’s  involvement in the Second World War it is buildings, maps, declassified documents, personal letters, photographs and local memories.

Hospital buildings in the park at Kingston Lacy

Hospital buildings in the park at Kingston Lacy

On the 17th March 1943, the war department formally requisitioned 72 acres of parkland at Kingston Lacy House. The owner, Mr Bankes, was to be paid £145 per year, which the government then taxed at 19 shillings and 6 pence in the pound!

This land was used as an American run hospital and small prisoner of war camp, and on the 3rd April 1944 the first unit, the 28th (US) General Hospital moved into the park commanded by Colonel J J Figueras.  Their stay was only four months, then Lt Col Orval J Miller arrived to take over with the 106th General Hospital out of Fort McClellan. They were to stay and run the hospital untill 11th July 1945. Over this sixteen month period the records tell us that up to 20,000 patients were treated, including out patients, at the hospital in the park!

In one of the labs at Kingston Lacy

In one of the labs at Kingston Lacy

10 bed Isolation Ward one of the surviving buildings at Kingston Lacy

10 bed Isolation Ward one of the surviving buildings at Kingston Lacy

Only three buildings and some concrete roads survive in the park from the 1000 bed hospital, but with help from volunteers both here and in America we have made contact with many people involved with the site and  relatives of some of the staff who worked at the hospital. It is through their generosity that we have memories of parties at the hospital from local residents, letters written from the hospital asking for chocolate and many wonderful photographs of the staff  and site.

Along with the declassified documents from Washington we have a personal  story of what happened in the park at Kingston lacy during WWII.

Inside one of the hospital buildings at Kingston lacy

Inside one of the hospital buildings at Kingston lacy

There are far too many stories and  things to tell you in one post so we will pick one of the people at a time and tell you a bit about their time at Kingston Lacy, so keep following 🙂