Hospital offered highest standards for war wounded

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Hospital offered highest standards for war wounded Hospital offered highest standards for war wounded

At this time of our local reflection on the centennial anniversary of the Great War from 1914-18, let us remember the remarkable local contribution made in nursing the war wounded at West Ham Infirmary.

Purpose built in 1903, it was formerly the 400 acre Forest House stately home of Sir Gilbert Heathcote, before being commissioned by the British Army Council, from October 1917, to be re-designated as a WW1 military hospital with 180 acute war wounded soldiers and 160 convalescent beds. 

On November 17, 1917 the royal visit of King George V and Queen Mary marked a watershed in the development of ambition for the highest standards of nursing care at the new Whipps Cross Hospital as it was known from 1918. 

There were annual nursing prize-giving awards aimed at making nursing care more professional. Weekly individual nursing hours were reduced to 53 hours and one whole day off was given per seven post WW1. A new nursing home was opened in the lush grounds of Forest House that provided a private room for each nurse.

In 1915 the Army Council had declined to accept the West Ham Infirmary as one of the 80 national military hospitals. But in February 1917 in a re-inspection it said that it provided modern equipment and could now fulfil the role. 

My own local research at Vestry House Museum has shown that the reports in the Leytonstone Express and local Guardian in 1917 indicate that the war wounded recovering from shell-shock and convalescing on the wards were offered free tickets to West End musicals and were also entertained with a jamboree on Saturday afternoons such as one at Davies Lane Girls' School in Leytonstone.

It is clear that the local community welcomed the war wounded soldiers at the West Ham Infirmary in Whipps Cross and there was a positive patriotic reception and recognition of their individual courage at the battle-front trenches, at the time of Passchendaele.

Patrick C Smith, Higham Hill, Liberal Democrat Focus

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