A COLLECTION of historic images showing wounded First World War soldiers enjoying winter sports have been re-discovered at Longleat.

The photographs, taken in 1917, show soldiers skating and tobogganing on Half Mile Pond, a large lake next to Longleat House on the estate near Warminster.

One of the images shows Lady Kathleen Thynne, a daughter of the 5th Marquess of Bath, skating on the ice with an officer. Another depicts four wounded soldiers pushing a makeshift toboggan across the frozen lake.

Longleat curator, Dr James Ford said: “The severely cold weather of late January and early February 1917 led to Longleat’s lakes freezing over.

"The ice on Half Mile Pond was over a foot thick and patients, staff and members of the Thynne family went skating.

“Violet, 5th Marchioness of Bath noted that this was only the second time she had seen the lakes freeze thick enough to skate on,” he added.

The South West recorded large snow falls of up to 14 inches in the winter of 1917. A temperature of -19.4 Centigrade was recorded in Wellington on February 7 and, even as late as April, it was still -5 Centigrade in some areas.

The first patients to be treated at Longleat were 31 Belgian soldiers who had fought to defend West Flanders after the retreat of the British Expeditionary Force.

A hundred beds were put up in the Saloon and State Dining Room, nurses were moved into the Bachelor Rooms on the top floor of the house, a bedroom was turned into an operating theatre, and the Red Library transformed into a sitting room for the convalescing soldiers.

“The photographs provide a fascinating insight into the daily lives of the soldiers as they recuperated and recovered from their injuries,” said Dr Ford.

“It must have been quite a shock to have come from the horrors of the battlefront to the grandeur and comfort of Longleat House.”

Longleat was one of the first stately homes to become a hospital, opening its doors on November 7, less than three months after war was declared. It remained operational until January 1919 caring for 2,044 soldiers, including 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic victims.

Soldiers recovered in comfortable surroundings and even enjoyed a full programme of entertainments.

There was a Debating Society, which met in the Green Library every Monday, concerts, plays and sporting events. Much of this is recorded in the Longleat Lyre, a magazine prepared by patients containing news, poems and stories.

The Thynne family also contributed to the war effort in others ways. Lady Kathleen Thynne was secretary of the Longleat hospital throughout the war. In late 1916, she also worked serving soldiers at a canteen in northern France.

Her sister, Lady Emma Thynne, worked as a lathe turner in a munitions factory at Eynstone in Kent.

John, Viscount Weymouth and the 20-year-old heir to Longleat, was killed in February 1916 at Hulluch, and Lieutenant Colonel Lord Alexander Thynne DSO, youngest brother of the 5th Marquess, was killed in September 1918 near Bethune.