Med­i­cal staff moved pa­tients fur­ther away from har­bour in case of air raids

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY NEIL DRYS­DALE

When war broke out in Au­gust 1914, few peo­ple could have imag­ined its im­pact. But new re­search car­ried out by NHS Grampian’s ar­chiv­ist Fiona Musk has re­vealed the con­cerns of med­i­cal staff a cen­tury ago as they tried to pre­pare for a bom­bard­ment of Aberdeen.

While it was orig­i­nally hoped the hos­til­i­ties would be over by Christ­mas 1914, the man­agers of the Royal Aberdeen Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal took no chances.

They de­cided that pa­tients should be moved out of the Cas­tle Ter­race build­ing to some­where fur­ther away from the har­bour, which was sub­ject to pos­si­ble air raids.

The out­break of the con­flict caused other prob­lems – such as staffing. The 1914 an­nual re­port noted most of the med­i­cal and sur­gi­cal staff had been mo­bilised and had to give up their jobs.

The di­rec­tors also had to or­gan­ise the evac­u­a­tion of the hos­pi­tal to other premises, and moved into Kep­ple­stone House in Ru­bis­law on Jan­uary 1 1915.

Yet they re­mained anx­ious about the pos­si­bil­ity of health fa­cil­i­ties com­ing un­der at­tack, and not with­out rea­son.

Ms Musk said: “The threat of an air raid was al­ways present and a note in the ad­mis­sion reg­is­ters for Kingseat Hos­pi­tal at New­machar recorded that ‘a Ger­man air­ship passed about 2am on May 3 1916 on the way back to Ger­many’.

“Her pro­pel­lers were heard dis­tinctly by night staff. The air­ship had dropped bombs near Lums­den and In­sch, be­fore head­ing back over the North Sea and ditch­ing off the Nor­we­gian coast.

“How­ever, progress was made at Kep­ple­stone House and a new open air ward was in­tro­duced, which was of great ben­e­fit to the chil­dren. The 1916 an­nual re­port said it was pos­si­ble ‘with the aid of blan­kets and hot wa­ter bot­tles’ to keep the chil­dren warm in all weath­ers, even the most cold.

“The fresh air was also noted to help aid the quick heal­ing of wounds.”

Dur­ing 1917, the hos­pi­tal moved back to Cas­tle Ter­race and its di­rec­tors de­cided to restart their fundrais­ing for a new build­ing, hav­ing put the project on hold, due to the im­por­tance of other wartime ap­peals.

And they is­sued an im­pas­sioned plea for greater sup­port to help them look af­ter the next gen­er­a­tion. They said: “The ne­ces­sity for the care of child life was never so great as it is to­day.

“We trust that the re­sponse to the new ap­peal will be of such a gen­er­ous char­ac­ter to en­able us to pro­ceed with the erec­tion of the new hos­pi­tal im­me­di­ately af­ter the ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties.

“There could be no more suit­able peace of­fer­ing or wor­thier me­mo­rial to the mem­ory of those who have, with mag­nif­i­cent pa­tri­o­tism, made the supreme sac­ri­fice and thereby com­pelled a world’s ad­mi­ra­tion and es­teem.

“That me­mo­rial must not be merely a cold and life­less one in stone or bronze, but one which will serve some no­ble end and give ex­pres­sion by its benef­i­cent work to our pride, our grat­i­tude, and our sor­row.”

How­ever, it was many years be­fore their pro­pos­als reached fruition.

Ms Musk added: “The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Joint Hospi­tals Scheme in the early 1920s meant the di­rec­tors’ vi­sion of a war me­mo­rial hos­pi­tal wasn’t met.

“But the Royal Aberdeen Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal was the first to open on the new Forester­hill site in 1929, in part be­cause of the suc­cess­ful fundrais­ing car­ried out for its build­ing fund.

“Many changes have since taken place, not least the open­ing of its third in­car­na­tion in 2003, but the opin­ion of the di­rec­tors in 1917 is still felt keenly to­day.”

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