Soldier in Hospital Photograph

Simple candid photographs of ordinary soldiers in hospital are unusual- normally press photos show wards of men in beds with nurses bustling around and most men did not think to take their own snapshots of these less than enjoyable moments of army life. Today’s photograph is therefore very informative and shows a young soldier (we know from other photographs in the selection I bought this one with that his name was Eric) sitting up cheerfully in his hospital bed at some point in World War II:

The patient is dressed in the standard British Army pyjamas issued to injured men. They lacked fly buttons to make access easier for men with injuries and they were loose fitting to prevent rubbing injured skin. They were made in pale blue and red stripes:

On the shelf of the bedside cabinet we can see a few personal items which look like shaving equipment and a standard British Army 1 pint china mug can be seen resting on the top:

On the wall of the ward can be seen a set of earphones wired into some central system. I am not entirely sure what these are, but my suspicion is that they would be wired into some sort of entertainment such as the wireless to amuse patients well enough to sit up, without disturbing sicker members of the war:

Some military hospitals could be very well appointed as Joan Holgate recalled:

Longdon Hall was situated far from the sea in the beautiful Staffordshire countryside about five miles from Lichfield. It was an ‘edifice of historical interest’ but in 1940 it was the residence of a Mr Burnett who had turned it over to the British Red Cross to be used as a hospital by the RAF.

The wards were named after old Staffordshire families: Berkley, Talbot, Anglesey and Chetwynd, with a resident ghost on permanent night duty. The Red Cross appointed a Commandant and a Quartermaster; both high-minded ladies in low-heeled shoes, to administer the hospital, and sisters and nurses to care for the patients. The nursing staff were closely supervised; no patient was allowed to date a nurse without first asking the Commandant for permission. Usually this was refused. As many as 15 nationalities were admitted for treatment: Australians, Canadians, American flyers who had volunteered to fly with the RAF, Poles, Czechs, free French, Belgians, Norwegians and Dutch etc. The Canadian Red Cross sent us food parcels consisting of large tins of butter, jam, marmalade, dried eggs, corned beef, tea and coffee. So we were able to treat our patients to a varied cuisine.

Longdon Hall had a Victorian walled kitchen garden, complete with two ancient gardeners to dig for victory. They managed to produce fresh vegetables, tomatoes, peaches, even strawberries and asparagus: wonderful luxuries in wartime. There were free-range eggs and cream, skimmed from the pans in the cool dairy. We never heard an air raid siren and the only enemy planes we did hear were the German bombers passing high above on their way to bomb Liverpool, Coventry or Sheffield. Our airmen were young and fit and recovered from their injuries with the minimum of help from us, and many soon rejoined their squadrons to fight again.

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