The Cambridge Military Hospital Aldershot 1879-1996
Opened on 18 July 1879, the CMH was built by Messrs Martin Wells and Co. of Aldershot and is a fine example of late Victorian Military architecture. It is named after Prince George, Duke of Cambridge. During the first world war the hospital was the first place to receive the wounded directly from the Western Front and became the first plastics unit in the British Empire -reconstructing the faces of soldiers from the Battle of the Somme. New ZealanderHarold Gillies (then Captain Gillies RAMC) performed much pioneering work here and later at Queen Mary's Hospital. Sidcup. Today the Grade II listed building is part of the Aldershot Urban Extension regeneration project. The hospital is to become residential apartments. It has a commanding elevated position on Hospital Road and I am very pleased it will remain. The hospital was a wonderful place to work and treated both service personnel and the local civilian population. The wards spanned the long corridor with the Emergency deparment at one end and the children's ward (Ward 1) at the other. The corridor was affectionately know as being 'a mile long' (it isn't) but on a busy day spent running back and forth to the operating theatre, it certainly felt like it! Several of the ground floor wards occupied both sides of the corridor. In recent years, Ward 1 was the children's ward and had the main ward at the rear and the milk kitchen and parent cubicles within the front aspect. The general wards were open plan - the 'nightingale' design and had tall sash windows and plenty of natural light. All beds were evenly spaced down each side with all wheels pointing in the same direction! The sluice room, bathrooms and dayroom/balcony were located at the end of the ward. It was Florence Nightingale who encouraged hospital builders to create balconies for convalescing troops. The staff to patient ratio was good and the standards of care were very high. It was important to remember that the service men and women would not have family near by. Matron did her round at 11am each day and the chosen nurse would meet and greet. He or she would be required to know the name, rank, age, regiment and diagnosis of each patient. As well as the nursing staff, each ward had a stewardess who was responsible for the general housekeeping duties and patient meals. The meals were individually plated by the ward sister or nurses and personally delivered to each patient. On the upper floor, the wards had a different layout, generally with bays containing 4 beds. I remember ward 9 (female medical) very well, particularly the night shift. In the wee small hours when all was quiet, I would often feel a presence behind me. It was a safe reassuring presence - the Grey Lady perhaps?!