Art and humour amid carnage of world war

Sketched by Sheffield military hospital nurse Edith Eveline Bromehead. PLEASE CREDIT SHEFFIELD ARCHIVES
Sketched by Sheffield military hospital nurse Edith Eveline Bromehead. PLEASE CREDIT SHEFFIELD ARCHIVES
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THEY are cartoons which seek to find humour amid the horrors of World War One; sketches showing soldiers using grenades to light cigarettes, sailors who have clearly had more than their ration of rum and - but of course - the Kaiser taking a pasting.

But the incredible images - often funny, occasionally angry - are not the product of professional cartoonists or published artists from the period. They are the works of wounded Sheffield soldiers being treated by a teenage nurse in a city military hospital.

Edith Eveline Bromehead, from Ecclesall, asked her hero patients to contribute to a sketchbook while treating them during the Great War of 1914 -1918.

Now, as the countdown to the centenary of the conflict begins, a selection of the pictures have been published for the first time. More than a dozen of the paintings and sketches have been placed online by Sheffield Archives at www.picturesheffield.com.

“They are such striking images,” says Kirsten Smith, senior archivist at the Shoreham Street centre. “We know very little about the book itself or about Edith - we’re not even entirely sure when it came into the archives - but we were looking for things to put online to spark interest in the centenary, and these were perfect.

“We’re not sure whether she asked her patients to draw as part of their therapy - it was believed art could help soldiers suffering shell-shock - or whether it was something she did under her own initiative. Either way, it’s an amazing glimpse into the Sheffield military hospitals in the period.”

Among the pictures are scenes from battles on the Gallipoli Peninsula and a Gurkha soldier. One, poignantly, shows a soldier with missing limbs and asks: “what does Britain owe him?” Notes of friendship from both staff and patients also feature prominently in the book.

Edith, herself, was born in Ecclesall in 1898. Her early years were spent living in Myrtle Road, Heeley, and she attended Heeley Bank Girls School. By the time war broke out in August 1914, she was 16 or 17. It is understood she spent the entire conflict working in a hospital - although it is unclear which one.

Edith married Frank Kerrigan in 1925, and they lived in Melrose Place, Burngreave, for most of their married life. She passed away in March 1972. Frank followed a few months later.

Commemorative paving stones for trio

The centenary year of World War One, 2014, will be marked across the world.

Formal plans are still being put together in Sheffield but those already announced are for commemorative paving stones to be installed remembering the trio of city soldiers who received the Victoria Cross for courage. The government will also provide cash for local communities to spruce up warm memorials.

Dozens of city school children, meanwhile, will be taken to see the battle fields and trenches.

Museums Sheffield is planning exhibitions for both Weston Park Museum and the Millennium Gallery.

And several neighbourhood groups, such as members of Walkley Community Centre, have revealed plans to honour local soldiers through booklets, displays and commemoration days.