Auxiliary Hospitals

Even before the First World War,  the British Red Cross searched for suitable properties in Britain to be used to treat the sick should war break out. These temporary facilities for wounded servicemen proved to be vital once the outset of battle commenced. This meant that as soon as wounded men began to arrive from abroad, the hospitals and convalescent homes were largely available for use, with equipment and staff already in place. However, they did not anticipate how important this service would be, and how many servicemen they would help. How were these facilities staffed?

  • Commandant: in charge except for medical and nursing services
  • Quartermaster: responsible for receipt, custody and issue of stock from the provision store
  • Matron: in charge of the nursing staff and the VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachments)
  • Members of the VAD who were trained in first aid and home nursing

Volunteers working in auxiliary hospitals were often those considered too old or too young to work in military establishments, many having family commitments and not able to join for possibly months but were willing to sign up on three-month contracts when they arrived. There were also some paid roles, such as cooks. Auxiliary hospitals were also an attractive option compared to the stress and sheer hard work of a military hospital, one noting “I’d rather be head cook in a small auxiliary than assistant cook in a military”. Local doctors also did voluntary work in these establishments and in 1917 were finally rewarded by the War Office when payment was authorised for their services.

In Doncaster, the Arnold Auxiliary Hospital in Thorne Road, treated wounded soldiers returned from the Front.

The Arnold Auxiliary Hospital on Thorne Road, Doncaster. Doncaster Local Studies Library, 20-PPL-342.