The Royal Naval Hospital

Wartime Staff Royal Naval Hospital

With the expansion of Simon's Town under the British, there was a need for bigger and better hospital facilities to serve the Royal Navy. On 11th October 1904, the Royal Naval Hospital on Cable Hill, overlooking Simon's Bay, was opened by HRH Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein (3rd daughter of Queen Victoria).  Its initial 3 ward capacity was expanded during World War 2 to accommodate over 200 patients served by 5 medical officers, 2 dental officers, 29 sick berth ratings, 6 nursing sisters, 22 VADs and many locally-recruited staff. The pressure that the hospital was under is reflected by figures for the final quarter of 1942 that show 550 patients being admitted, with a variety of ailments from battle injuries (burns and contusions from shell splinters) to VD and ulcers. A report towards the end of the war by the senior medical officer reveals entrepreneurial insights and also some complaints that would be familiar to hospital administrators even today.   

If the Laundry was completely modernised, it would be possible to undertake washing for at least 2 ships of the Cruiser class, and that the financial adjustment for this would go a long way towards meeting the expenses of the laundry.

Or this, about the drawbacks of a new operating theatre set on a mountainside in Africa:

Though adequate for all general surgical work, it has the disadvantage of all its doors opening directly into the open air, and at times it is impossible to use the theatre unless in an emergency, because of dust.

Accommodating female patients was clearly a problem, as apart from a few ward cabins, no accommodation existed until a small ward was made out of the old mortuary. Prior to this, when more than 2 female patients were in hospital a whole ward had to be allocated to them. 

The Royal Naval Hospital treated over 8000 patients during the war, and remained in use until 1957. It has now been converted into staff accommodation and facilities for the SA Navy Band. But signs of it remain visible. That Laundry, for example, with overhead pulleys still in place.


The photo courtesy of the Simon's Town Museum