THE International Committee of the Red Cross was inaugurated in Alloa in 1907 by Violet Erskine, Countess of Mar and Kellie.

Its purpose was to train men and women in first aid and act as nurses, ambulance drivers and paramedics who were to be on the front line should there be a threat of war.

The Voluntary Aid Detachments as they were known were also trained in home nursing but were mainly to be deployed in local centres as they could spring into action as soon as was necessary.

This came to pass in the summer of 1914. On 28th June, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo which began a chain of events that subsequently led to the outbreak of World War I.

In early August, a meeting was held at the Castle Campbell Hall at the top of the Burnside in Dollar where a war work party was set up and during that meeting Mr Kerr of the Harviestoun estate offered Sheardale House as a Red Cross hospital.

A fund was set up and people promised to donate beds and other furnishings, however it was never taken up by the local Red Cross Commissioner of the Eastern District Major Wallace. Other homes were offered up too, including Arnsbrae at Cambus.

The suggestion of this large estate house was accepted, and it became an auxiliary hospital thanks to the generosity of Dr James Younger and his wife Annie Thomson Paton.

Designed by well-known Victorian architect Alfred Waterhouse, it had been gifted to the couple on their marriage of 18th February 1886 as both came from wealthy local families.

James was the grandson of George Younger, the Alloa brewer, while Annie was the great-granddaughter of Paton woollen mill founder John Paton, and the couple moved into their new home in May that year.

By the time the house was used as the county Red Cross hospital, the Youngers had moved and settled at Mount Melville in St Andrews, a much grander mansion that was completed in 1903 and had become their main residence.

They allowed their retained staff at Arnsbrae to be used on a rotational basis with the local VADs. Eleven volunteers oversaw the wounded men coming back from the front, bringing them to the hospital, and nursing and feeding them.

This was overseen by the commandant, although the nursing and medical services fell to the matron who directed all the nursing staff. Both they and the equipment required for its smooth running were already in place before the first soldiers arrived.

The government provided fixed grants for each patient at Arnsbrae Auxiliary Hospital in Cambus throughout the World War I. This was to cover the cost of treatment, food and any other costs incurred by the soldier during his time there.

The grant increased annually and the most paid was £1 4s 6d per soldier per week.

None of the men attending these kinds of hospitals had life-threatening injuries as the more serious cases were sent to the military hospitals to be treated, but what they did need was time to recuperate from either wounds or illness.

Many of those who stayed at the likes of Arnsbrae, with its large estate gardens and views of the countryside, found it to be less disciplined and more homely than being in austere military confines, which probably aided their recovery.

An important figure was the quartermaster who took care issuing food and other articles such as blankets. Many locals donated to the hospital.

Mostly, food was handed in, such as fruit and vegetables which the paid cook turned into nutritious meals, and sweet treats often followed.

One of the cooks employed was 33 year old Miss Jean Macpherson who spent seven months at Arnsbrae, and who by all accounts was an excellent cook. Cigarettes and matches were also handed in for the men.

Cars and horse drawn carriages helped to move the patients, which again was all done on a voluntary basis.

The soldiers who were able to walk had a distinctive uniform that became known as the blue invalid uniform, hospital suit or simply hospital blues.

This consisted of a blue jacket with white lining, blue trousers, a white shirt and red tie.

When appearing in public, the government hoped that they would be seen as helping these men recover.

It was also a means for the public to show some appreciation for their service to king and country.

The hospital was demobilised in January 1919, following the cessation of hostilities two months earlier.

In all there were over 3000 auxiliary hospitals throughout the UK during World War I but Arnsbrae was the only one in Clackmannanshire.

It was linked to Stirling’s long-established military hospital at Argyll’s Lodging near the castle, which remained a military hospital until 1964 when it was turned into a youth hostel and today is a museum.

Throughout their lives the philanthropic Youngers helped many good causes. Annie died in 1942 aged 78 and James four years later aged 90.

The house at Cambus was Category B listed on 1st July 1974.