Historic Image: Pavilion Grounds
Indian patients in the Royal Pavilion garden, 1915.
The Indian hospital opened with about 600 beds, with around 120 more in tents in the summer. Over the course of fourteen months, over 2,300 wounded Indian soldiers were treated. Then in January 1916, the Indian army was redeployed from the Western Front to fight in Egypt and Mesopotamia, in what today is Iraq. Local military historian Tom Donovan explains why:
‘By the end of 1915, their numbers had been depleted greatly by casualties in battle and by sickness, and a decision was made to break up the Indian Army corps in France and employ it in the Middle East. So a lot closer to its own home base in India, therefore more easy to repatriate its wounded, easier to supply it with reinforcements, easier to supply it with material from India.’
As it was now more practical to send wounded soldiers back to India than to bring them to Britain, the Indian Hospital period at the Pavilion came to an end.
However, the need for hospitals in Southern England was, if anything, even greater by this time. And with the Pavilion already adapted for medical use, it was quickly reopened as a hospital for limbless British soldiers, with room for about 520 patients, plus around 80 or 90 under canvas. The hospital would stay open until long after the war had ended, not closing its doors until 1920, by which time it had treated more than 6000 men.
When you’re ready, continue into the next room, the Great Kitchen.