Stanley Spencer and the RAMC
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The list of the famous who have served in the RAMC is quite a long one and features a wide range of people from eminent scientists to actors, to sportsmen, to MPs, to authors and to artists. This short story is about an artist, Sir Stanley Spencer, who lived between 1891 and 1959.

Spencer came from Berkshire. At the beginning of the Great War he enlisted in the RAMC as a Nursing Orderly and was initially employed at Beaufort War Hospital in Bristol. In 1916 he was posted to 68 Field Ambulance that was serving in Salonika as part of 22 Division. In 1917 he was transferred to 7th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment there. He caught Malaria just before the end of the War before returning home in December 1918.

After the War, Spencer had in mind to find a large project so his art could form part of a tribute to his wartime experiences. He found benefactors for this in a wealthy couple, the wife of which had lost her brother, Lieutenant Harry Sandham, from disease in 1920. Sandham had also served in Salonika and had suffered from bouts of Malaria. And so the couple, named Behrend, built a chapel of dedication to Sandham at Burghclere in Berkshire. Spencer provided a dramatic set of 17 murals for the Chapel featuring his experiences at Beaufort War Hospital and out in Salonika. They are a striking memorial to the RAMC in the round.

Today the Sandham Memorial Chapel is run by the National Trust and is open to the public. It stands on land purchased from Highclere, the estate used for the filming of TV Serial Downton Abbey, and which, of course, itself featured a storyline of the house there acting as a War Hospital during the Great War. Spencer was appointed Official War Artist during World War 2. You will find other examples of Spencer’s work in the Tate Gallery, in the Imperial War Museum and in the Stanley Spencer gallery in his hometown of Cookham, Berkshire.

So, if you are ever passing through Berkshire, I strongly recommend a detour to Burghclere to see a quite different and fascinating tribute to our Corps and its part the Great War.

To the right on this page is a picture of Spencer, a shot of the outside of the Sandham Memorial Chapel and then a glimpse of the murals within.

Alistair McMillan
April 2020

Stanley Spencer

Stanley Spencer

Sandham Memorial Chapel

Sandham Memorial Chapel

Sandham Murals

Sandham Murals

The RAMC Association

William Boog LeishmanIn 1925, the RAMC Association was formed to further the camaraderie of WW1 Corps veterans with Sir William Leishman being the first President. There are now some 28 branches around UK with a predominantly veteran membership although most serving Corps members also are members centrally. The Association has traditionally been supported by Corps Funds and especially for the expenses of the branch standards and standard bearers.