Society News: Details

Bolton Infirmary Register Saved

On Friday 5 June 2015 John Marsden, Brian Whittle, Jane Milne and Graham Holt handed over to Julie Lamara, Collections Access Officer-Local Studies at Bolton History Centre a valuable record from WWII.

The record was the Bolton Royal Infirmary register of out-patients (war casualties) for 1939-1948. A Society member had spotted this weighty register on sale at a recent antiques fair. Although it had previously been offered to Bolton History Centre, they had not been in a position to purchase it. Recognising its value to future family and social historians, the Society's Executive Committee agreed to purchase the register and donate it to Bolton History Centre to be preserved for the benefit of future researchers.

The register records approaching 6,000 out-patients who had been treated by the hospital during the war and in the three years following VE Day. The term 'war casualty' seems to have had a very broad definition. With the exception of a few civilians identified as air raid casualties, those named appear to have been serving in HM forces or in civil capacities such as the police and fire service. Some other organisations such as the Women's Land Army are also represented.

The nature of their presenting conditions is not limited to combat injuries - indeed, with the exception of air raid victims, few of the conditions seem to be connected with combat - but consist of much the same conditions as might be found in any A&E department or GP's surgery. These include injuries such as broken bones and lacerations but also conditions such as asthma, chest pains and haemorrhoids. It would seem, therefore, that it was chiefly the employment of the patient on 'war duties' which determined their inclusion rather than the nature and cause of their incapacities.

Against each name is recorded the patient's age and residential address as well as the military or civil organisation to which they belonged. In the case of servicemen this detail includes regiment, rank and service number. A brief description of their presenting condition is given and the dates of admission and discharge complete the entry. While most were discharged on the same day, some were clearly admitted to the hospital for treatment or observation.

While the patients' addresses are mostly local, this is not always the case and addresses from further afield are fairly common, including some from London and other fairly distant places, presumably they were temporarily posted to the Bolton area or were visiting.

Now for the bad news! Since the register constitutes a medical record, it falls within the scope of a 100 year closure rule and so will not be open to public examination until 2049. It is not even permissible to compile and publish a name index under this ruling and so for most of us, it will be a long wait (something to look forward to as a treat for my 101st birthday perhaps). If, however, you know that you or perhaps your parent or grandparent was injured while serving in the military or police or fire services in Bolton during the war and visited the Infirmary, then you will be able to view the relevant entry by personal arrangement with the Bolton History Centre. They are not, however, able to carry out a wide search of this unindexed register and so you would need to be able to specify the approximate date.

Despite the 100 year closure, the Society recognises the value that this source will offer to local and family historians researching WWII family history, much as we do the records of WWI during these centenary years and we are pleased to have been able to save this valuable future resource even if we cannot immediately benefit from it.

This update was published on 06 Jun 2015. For more information, please contact John Marsden at MLFHS

Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society