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William Louis René Wood

Captain William Louis René Wood MC, Royal Army Medical Corps (R.A.M.C.), attached to 69th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery

The 1911 Census records the 33 year old, French born, Dr. William Louis René Wood, Physician and Surgeon, living at the twelve-roomed Sowood House, The Green, Ossett, with his wife of three years, 36 year old, Emily Gertrude (nee Haslam). Living with them in the household was Gertrude’s mother, two domestic servants and a 24 year-old Physician & Surgeon, Clifford Crawshaw Pickles. Dr. Wood had worked alongside William Greenwood (1863-1911) in the Sowood House medical practice since 1907, and would spend the next 30 years there.

William Louis René Wood was born on the 16th August 1877 at Baccarat, Lorraine, France, the son of William Louis and Josephine Juliette Wood, both subjects of France. It is not certain when William Louis René first came to England, but in 1891 he was 13 years of age and a pupil at Turton Hall School at Gildersome, Leeds. William, aged 21 years, received his Naturalisation Certificate having made his Declaration and sworn his allegiance to the Queen on the 18th October 1898 whilst a medical student residing at New College, Harrogate. His 1898 Declaration confirmed that he had resided in the United Kingdom for five of the previous eight years.

By 1901, Wood was a medical student and boarder at New College, Harrogate which was operated by the Haslam family. The head of the family was Reverend John Haslam, who had been Headmaster and proprietor of Turton Hall, Gildersome. When the lease expired on Turton Hall in 1898 Haslam bought land in Harrogate and established the independent proprietary school, which he called New College. William Louis René Wood attended both the Haslam run Turton Hall and New College, and he also married Gildersome born, Emily Gertrude Haslam, the daughter of Baptist Minister, John Haslam, on the 24th April 1907 in Harrogate.

William Wood was licensed to practice as a doctor on the 19th May 1905 first becoming a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries and, in 1908, a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons and a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians. He came to Ossett in 1907.

Sometime after the declaration of war on 4th August 1914 Dr. W.L.R. Wood enlisted, joined the R.A.M.C. at the rank of Lieutenant and subsequently Captain, attached to the 69th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. He embarked for his home country of France on 16th April 1915.

The "Batley News" on the 9th September 1916 reported the following:

"Military Cross For An Ossett Doctor - Captain L.W. René Wood (R.A.M.C.) has received the Military Cross for meritorious conduct in France. Before the war he was a medical practitioner in Ossett, and also Medical Officer of Health, a position he still holds, and the duties of which are by his partner (Dr. W Hole). Part of Dr. Wood's life was spent in France."

Captain Wood was awarded the British and Victory Medals for his service in a theatre of war and the 1914-15 Star Medal to recognise his service overseas on or before the 31st December 1915. His medal card indicates that he was awarded the Military Cross, a decoration for gallantry during active operations in the presence of the enemy. Commissioned officers with the rank of Captain or below or Warrant Officer were eligible for the award. His medal card also includes the word "Emblem" which signifies that he was also Mentioned in Dispatches for which he was entitled to wear an oak leaf on the ribbon of the Victory Medal.

Dr. Wood’s partner, Dr W. Hole, continued the Sowood House practice during WW1, whilst Dr Wood served overseas. Meanwhile back in Ossett there is evidence that a young woman, Constance Elliot-Birks1, spent some time at Sowood House during the last year of the war. Constance was a nurse for a period during WW1, serving, close to the front line, at the Scottish Women’s Hospital in Royaumont, France. Her short stay at Sowood House in 1918 is puzzling, but her father, James Shipton Birks, who appears to have accompanied her to Sowood House, had served in many capacities during his working life. His various employments included work as a chemical agent, a commercial traveller and a manufacturing chemist. This may have been the reason for his presence in Ossett.

Dr. Wood was still occupying Sowood House on the 3rd December 1928 when he entered into a new ten year lease with a five year option, offered to him by Alice Greenwood, the widow of William Greenwood and the administrator of his estate following her husband's death in 1911. Alice’s address, 1133, Upper Richmond Road, Putney, London was similar to the address at which she lived with her daughters in 1911.

Perhaps contemplating a change in tenant, and/or a change in use for Sowood House, in February 1937, Alice Greenwood instructed the family solicitors, Messrs Snell & Co., to commission Ossett architect, Charles Kendall A.R.I.B.A. of 10, Bank Street, Ossett. His brief was to undertake a survey of Sowood House and to make recommendations regarding any necessary remedial work, which may be needed to secure the future of Sowood House.

Dr. William Louis René Wood remained at Sowood House until 1937, the year before the end of the ten year lease term. By 1940, aged 63, Dr Wood had moved to Ravenscliffe, Lands Lane, Knaresborough and he was living there when he died in Harrogate General Hospital on 2nd April 1942. His widow, Emily Gertrude, survived him and he left effects to a value of £8176 19s 9d.

The following note appeared in the "Yorkshire Post", dated Saturday 11th April 1942:

"Re: Dr. W.L. René Wood - Deceased: Will any persons having any claims against the Estate of the above Deceased, late of "Ravenscliffe", Lands Lane, Knaresborough, and formerly of "Sowood House, Ossett, Doctor of Medicine, who died on the 2nd of April instant send written particulars thereof to us on behalf of the Executrix. - Harrisons and Sons, Solicitors, 7 South Parade, Leeds."


1. Constance Elliott Birks