Hull Royal Infirmary Naval Hospital
The first hospital organised by Lady Nunburnholme was the Naval Hospital at the Hull Royal Infirmary, located at Argyle Street. Originally opened in 1914, to help Hull’s poor and sick people from the nearby Workhouse, she persuaded the Board of Guardians to donate the East and West wings of the hospital to help front line casualties arriving at nearby Paragon Station on special ambulance trains. In April 1917, it became a naval hospital for injured sailors. The Naval hospital was equipped by Lady Nunburnholme and Lord Glenconner and staffed by trained Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurses. It had 220 beds and was initially used as a military hospital for the sick from the Humber Garrisons, but by early 1917 had been entirely taken over by the Navy, receiving a weekly Royal Navy Ambulance Train. (The hospital was being used up to 2008 and was demolished in 2017.)
Lady Sykes Hospital
This was equipped by the late Sir Mark and Lady Sykes and based in the Metropole Hall, West Street in Hull. Staffed by trained VAD helpers this hospital transferred to France. It returned to Hull after the war and closed in January 1919.
The Reckitt’s company converted its social hall into a factory hospital. It was Hull’s third hospital with 45 beds, organised and financed by Mr and Mrs P Reckitt. This VAD run hospital opened on the 9th December 1914 and closed in January 1919. In the 4 years and 3 months that it was open, the Reckitt’s hospital treated 2,910 patients. Colonel Tatham from the Humber Garrison Medical Service wrote; “the patients who have been there, greatly appreciate the care and kindness bestowed upon them. Many of them have told me, that they were so looked after and received so many little extras and kindnesses, that Reckitts’ was the hospital that men wished to get into if they could.” Sir James Reckitt also billeted a large number of soldiers in their grounds and offered to house a large number of Belgian refugees.
St Johns Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital
This hospital was based at the Newland School for Girls on Cottingham Road. It was staffed by Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurses and opened by Field Marshall French in April 1917. (see photo below). It was run by Lady Nunburnholme and one of the largest hospitals in the country. It was also highly regarded by many military and Naval Authorities. The VAD’s of Hull also gave First Aid in different parts of the City.
‘Brookland’s Officers Hospital’
This is now the ‘Dennison Centre’ on Cottingham Road, and opened in early 1917. This hospital was run by the East Riding Branch of the Red Cross society and was commanded by Mrs Strickland Constable. JRR Tolkein spent 18 months there convalescing from ‘trench fever’. It is said that he was inspired by the surroundings to later write ‘The Lord of the Rings’. These military hospitals were manned and operated by the Royal Army Medical Corps and Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, supplemented by voluntary workers from a number of organizations, including the Voluntary Aid Detachments, Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance and YMCA.
In addition, other great work was done in Hull by local organisations, charities and trade unions. The ‘Blind Institute’ on Beverley Road was used to rehabilitate those with sight impairments. The De La Pole hospital at Castle Hill cared for ‘shell shock’ victims. Peel House, at No: 150 Spring Bank, became a centre for ‘Hull’s Prisoner of War Fund’, producing 130,000, life saving, ‘Red Cross’ parcels, for prisoners of war. The Freehold Street Bread Fund raised a substantial amount of money to provide bread for these prisoners. Hull’s Seaman’s Union also sent parcels, as well as providing money, clothes and coal for those in need at home. The Hull District War Refugee’s Committee, for Belgian Refugees, was set up on the 7th September 1914, at Bowalley Lane, Hull. Of its 500 volunteer helpers, 400 were women aiding a total of 1,200 refugees.
It is most appropriate to mention the fine work of Dr. Mary Murdoch, the first women medical practitioner to work in Hull. She had been connected with the Victoria Hospital for Sick Children in Park Street, since 1892. and had done much to promote the health and welfare of women and children in Hull. In 1910 Mary Murdoch became a Senior Physician, Hull’s first GP, and served as a medical representative on a number of Health Committees. She worked tirelessly to help the sick and wounded since the outbreak of the war. Unfortunately, Dr Mary Murdoch died after a short illness in March 1916. She had escaped a Zeppelin air raid, by running in the snow and was to catch a chill which became fatal. She had raised £250 to reopen the babies hospital at the Victoria hospital in Park Street, and after her death left £962 to the same cause and endowed a cot in her name.
WWI helped hasten medical advances. Physicians learned better wound management and the setting of bones. Harold Gillies, an English doctor, pioneered skin graft surgery. Geoffrey Keynes, a surgeon from Britain, designed a portable blood transfusion kit. It saved thousands of lives during World War 1. The huge scale of those who needed medical care in WWI helped teach physicians and nurses the advantages of specialisation and professional management. ‘X’ rays were used by the military for the first time during the war. Blood transfusions became routine to save soldiers, with the first blood bank established on the front line in 1917.