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Information and history about the British Military Hospital Berlin in Germany:
BMH Berlin was one of several BAOR (British Army On The Rhine) army hospitals in Germany. It is now closed though the building of the second BMH remains in use as a Krankenhaus.
This is the original building that was used as BMH Berlin. These photo’s was taken in 1956 from the collection of Corporal Peter Elgar RAMC (Path Lab) and used with kind permission.
Regimental Police Security check point.
See more of Peter’s photos from this era on the BMH Iserlohn, BMH Munster, Brandenburg Gate Berlin Germany Post World War Two, Kurfurstendamm Avenue Berlin Germany after Second World War Photo, Reichstag Building, Royal Army Medical College Millbank and the Russian War Memorial Gardens pages.
The photo of BMH Berlin below was how it looked in 1969.
The new BMH Berlin building was opened in May 1967 (cited in the book Sub Cruce Candida: A Celebration of One Hundred Years of Army Nursing).
Address of BMH Berlin
The old BMH Berlin was sited in the Spandau borough of Berlin and the new built BMH Berlin was in Charlottenburg area. The old hospital is now a police barracks located toward the east end of Radeland Strasse. The building is still there and can be viewed on Google maps and streetview. The new hospital continues to be a community hospital. You can view the area of BMH Berlin on Google Maps by typing Berlin into the search box, then Dickensweg. It is the block surrounded by Dickensweg to the North, Ragniter Allee to the East, Heer Strasse to the South, and Passenheimer Strasse to the West. There are lots of streets around there named after British authors and poets. The military post code for Berlin was BFPO 45.
The best directions to get there recently is to not go by it being in the Charlottenburg district, as maps suggest, but by the closest s bahn Olympia steady.
It is said of the old BMH Berlin that what was above ground was also below ground, ie. a bunker. More about this underground hospital is written below with some photos of the sub-basement emergency hospital.
Ambulance Train Squadron RAMC (V) were based here.
Sadly none of the QARANC.co.uk team had a German posting and would love to expand this page with more details about this former army hospital and include a photograph. If you are a former or serving member of the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps we would love your help.
If you would like to contribute any info, photographs or share your memories of BMH Berlin then please contact me.
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Memories of BMH Berlin
Millions Like Us: Women's Lives in War and Peace 1939-1949 has memories of a QA who was posted to a military hospital outside Berlin and remembers the food shortages caused when the Soviets severed communications into the city. She continues by remembering the Berlin Airlift, Operation Victuals, by the British, Canadian and French and having to scavenge for firewood to keep patients warm.
David Belton has been kind enough to share his memories and photographs of the first BMH Berlin from when he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a National Serviceman between December 1953 and November 1955.
I arrived in Berlin at six o’clock in the morning at the beginning of March 1954 feeling somewhat washed out having travelled up from Hanover on the ubiquitous over-night troop train. Between Helmstedt and Berlin we passed through the Russian Zone of Germany. To conform to the strict requirements of the Soviets the train left Hanover at midnight, all blinds were drawn so that we could not see from the train. The engines were changed at Helmstedt and the sound of unseen boots tramping up and down the platform outside was a little nerve wracking. Little wonder I was not feeling or looking my best on arrival at the Hospital.
I was destined to be a clerk at the Hospital, having completed a month long clerks’ course at Queen Elizabeth Barracks, Crookham after basic training. So, after a chance to wash, shave and have some breakfast, I was taken to meet the Chief Clerk, Sergeant Wrightson. He looked me up and down and did not seem too impressed with what he saw. I was set to work in the Hospital Office next door along the corridor. The only other person working in the Hospital Office was a young German woman, introduced as Hannelore. She maintained Officers’ records and typed correspondence for the Commanding Officer.
I quickly learned the routine which entailed typing stencils for Part I and Part II Orders, printing and distributing the copies made there from. I maintained the Hospital Register that recorded all Hospital admissions and discharges and had to take pay to patients on the wards when it arrived from their respective units. All treatment/operations were recorded manually by the doctors and surgeons. These had to be typed onto official forms with copies despatched to various records offices and others for inclusion in each soldier’s personal records. This was not always an easy task as almost by tradition, doctors’ handwriting is seldom entirely legible.
In addition to these routine duties, I was a general dogsbody at the beck and call of the Chief Clerk, the Company Officer Captain Hill, the meek and mild Company Sergeant Major WOII Castree and occasionally the Commanding Officer Colonel Hennessey. The CSM was nothing like those I had encountered in basic training. A State Registered Nurse, he once told me that he would have been happier working on the wards rather than having an administrative-cum-disciplinary post. His right hand man was Sergeant Cyril Woods with whom he shared his small office. As Orderly Sergeant, Cyril kept an eye on the German cleaners who were engaged to keep the premises spick and span. He also dealt with applications for late passes and leave passes although these were prepared by the Company Office – the Hospital’s equivalent to a Personnel Department responsible for the records of all RAMC Other Ranks.
The Orderly Sergeant also handed out the bus tickets we would use for free travel on Berlin buses and trams, the U Bahn and Stadt Bahn. On payday (Thursday) every soldier was handed two tickets that entitled him to purchase a hundred and forty cigarettes from the NAAFI at a shilling for twenty. Cigarettes were currency – the German barber who kept the men’s haircuts within reasonable bounds - that is to say far from short, would buy the cigarettes at a Deutsch Mark for twenty. The rate of exchange was one shilling and eight pence to the mark, so the sale represented a 66.6% profit. That profit was increased still further if the Deutsch marks were exchanged for Ost Marks for use in Soviet East Berlin as the rate of exchange was five Ost Marks for one Deutsch Mark. It was permissible to travel into the Russian Sector except on special days such as May Day We could purchase food and drink, theatre and opera tickets but we were no supposed to buy goods and souvenirs as that would support the East German economy.
We were paid in British Armed Forces Vouchers (known colloquially as Baffs) as Sterling notes were subject to UK currency controls at that time. These could be spent in the NAFFI, TocH Clubs and canteens and the Red Shield Clun run by the Salvation Army. Part of our pay could be taken as Deutsch Marks for use in German shops, bars etc. The Company Officer was responsible for the pay parade on a Thursday morning and was assisted by Herr Bruno Greiser the German pay clerk who maintained the company imprest account. A retired banker who had worked in the UK prior to the outbreak of war and who had been interned on the Isle of Man for the duration, Herr Greiser worked in the Company Office. There were two other German clerks on the Administration staff. Frau Grünau and Herr Ben Schneider ran a very efficient Records Office. Every piece of post that came in and went out and all documents produced were carefully logged and filed away. Nothing was ever lost and all files were maintained in pristine condition.
The other clerks were Corporal James Barrow, Privates Brian Kinsey and Bernard Fairclough at the time of my arrival. They worked in the Company Office and as National Servicemen; they each completed their two year’s service during my time at the Hospital. On the departure of Jim Barrow, I was promoted to Corporal and was put in charge of the Company Office. As people moved on, so they were replaced by men from subsequent intakes posted after training from the UK.
Beyond this office, the corridors led to the Maternity Ward and the NAFFI Canteen as well as the Dining room and kitchen that catered for other ranks. The Officers’ and Sergeants’ Messes were at the end of the building.
The Deputy Direct of Medical Services, Major Barry RAMC supported by his own clerk had his office beyond that of the matron. While in the other direction was the Post Room, manned by a Lance Corporal and the Transport Office. A number of civilian drivers were employed to run people around in VW Beetles. Senior NCOs and Officers had access to transport that was otherwise used by junior ranks on business. This included collecting post and pay from brigade HQ at the Olympic Stadium and stationery from the Ordnance Depot. The Colonel had his own driver, Pte Bob Pope RASC, who drove the CO in an Opal Capitan saloon. Ambulances were controlled by the Royal Army Service Corps from its depot a short distance away from the BHM itself. The only member of the RAMC who drove a vehicle was the Sergeant who with a private soldier constituted the Hygiene Department.
Finally, there was the Reception area with a Sergeant in charge assisted by a private soldier with a doctor on hand to assess each new arrival.
The first floor accommodation in this block was occupied as barrack rooms for the soldiers with bathrooms and the barber shop. There was a chapel where Captain Henson held Sunday services that were attended by both staff and patients. One of the Ward Sisters – QARANC Captain would march her ‘walking’ patients to morning service, something that was always a source of amusement. There was also accommodation for the German civilian nurses employed at the hospital.
All this was housed in ‘A’ Block that fronted Radeland Strasse.
The second large building, ‘B’ Block situated a short distance away across what might loosely be referred as a parade ground and sports field housed the three main wards. In the semi basement the Quarter Master had his domain. All bedding, hospital blue uniforms and other stores passed through here as well as laundry for both hospital and staff. On the first floor there was the surgical ward, operating theatre and hospital kitchen where patients’ meals were prepared. On the second floor there was the medical ward, ‘skin’ ward, pharmacy, TocH canteen, eye department, dental department – the domain of the Royal Dental Corps and the office of the Gynaecologist with his clerk – a very eccentric German lady whose typing speed was matched only by the speed at which she rode her bicycle to and from work.
The ‘skin’ ward was headed by Corporal Henry Bell. ‘Dinger’ was an SRN and the ward catered for patients who were registered as suffering with dermatitis. In actual fact most had acquired STD’s but it was a court-martial offence to catch VD as it was classed as a self-inflicted wound so, the Hospital Register was economical with the truth to protect the stupid!
On the top floor there was the Officer’s Ward and the Hospital cinema, where each Wednesday evening I showed a film for the benefit of patients and staff following a two week Projectionist Course in Minden under the auspices of the Army Kinema Corporation. The AKC operated the Jerboa Cinema at the NAFFI Club in Charlottenburg and I would have to go there to collect films to be shown in our own theatre.
Next to the cinema was the Detention Ward. Situated on the top floor with barred windows it comprised an area for the duty guard and small room that would be occupied by the prisoner. The location meant that escape via a window to the ground was impossible. On those occasions that inmates of Spandau Prison were brought here in addition to guards from the British Army there were guards from the USA, France and Russia. Each nation took it in turns to guard the prison for a month at a time. When, during a month that the UK forces were on duty, a prisoner, such as Rudolf Hess had to be hospitalised, he would be brought to the BMH together with a contingency of guards from each of the other nations. It seems no one trusted anyone in those days. In particular the Russians were adamant that each prisoner should serve his full term and in the case of Rudolf Hess, that meant life.
The Union Flag was flown each day on the top of this block and the soldier on duty had to make his way up to the attic, past a store of coffins to reach the flag pole via a ladder. The coffin store was eerie and as the flag had to be lowered at dusk, light in the attic was poor. Some of those appointed to flag duty found this somewhat intimidating!
At ground level and a little away from the main entrance there was the mortuary and pathology department. I cannot be sure whether it was the summer of 1954 or 1955 that two Grenadier Guardsmen had drowned while swimming in a static water tank. Whatever it was, the weather was very warm and they were brought to the mortuary for autopsy. There was no refrigeration unit so the bodies had to be kept cool with blocks of ice. There was growing concern over delay for repatriation to the UK but the problems were sorted and the deceased were duly moved down to the British Zone of Germany for onward flight to England.
This is the rear of the Administration Block. The Maternity Ward is in the right foreground. Officers’ Mess to the far left. The first floor of the tall central section is where the army personnel lived.
This is B Block as seen from the road. The semi-basement where the Quartermaster’s Store was located can be seen with the Surgical Ward above. On the next floor is the Medical Ward. The tall central windows are those of the Hospital Cinema with the Officers’ Ward to the left. On the right on this top floor is where the Detention Ward was located.
This is the rear view of the same block as seen from the sports field. The open windows in the centre are of the Officer’s Ward.
Early in 1955 the Brigade Commander, Berlin Independent Brigade came to inspect the Hospital. In this picture he can be seen with the small guard of honour. On the left is Colonel Hennessey. Partly obscured behind the Brigadier is Captain Hill, Company Officer. Behind him is Sgt Woods, the Orderly Sergeant. I am the corporal in the centre of the picture. The corporal third from centre is Ron Sutch of the Royal Signals Corps. He manned the Hospital switchboard during daytime. At night all incoming calls went straight through to the duty clerk who spent the night in the Hospital Office. Not long after this photo was taken, Captain Hill left for another posting and Major McGurgan took over as Company Officer. Sgt Wrightson, the Chief Clerk also moved on and Sgt Price joined us in his place.
I very much enjoyed my time at the Hospital and was sorry to leave when my tour of duty was up at the end of November 1955. I was assigned to the Territorial Army after demob and had to attend a two week training period with a Field Ambulance at Fort Tregantle in Cornwall during the summer of 1956. After that requirements for national Service underwent several changes and I finally handed in my uniform some months later. I consider myself very lucky to have had a good posting and many years later I was able to show my wife the place I had so many fond memories of. This is the photo I took now that the premises are occupied by the Police Academy.
The windows to the left of the door are of the CO’s Office – those on the right were of matron’s office from which there was a view of the full frontal nude male statue which can be seen under the tree. The chapel was behind the windows on the first floor. The top windows were of the Education Centre which was not used during my time.
Re your piece on BMH Berlin. I served as an Infantry Medic with the Royal Hampshire Regiment from 1983 to 1985 and BMH Berlin was well known to me. Yes it did have a full hospital complex underneath the main building with external access provided by sloping ramps from the MT pool on the north side and if memory serves me right one on the south and east facing the main highway the Heestrasse.
The hospital was accessed internally through the sub basement via 4 foot thick blast doors with submarine type locking wheels and air filters for NBC/CBRN as its now known. All along the floor were luminous lines of different colour indicating where they led i.e mortuary purple building above was designed for in the event of a nuclear blast to collapse like a house of cards to give more overhead protection from the deadly radiation released. Richard Tyne
I worked at BMH Berlin as a civilian ("Labourer, General - 14 Indep PCLU") during 1969 and 1970. Administrative Officer in those days was Major D.P. Bullough, RAMC.
Indeed there was an emergency hospital under the main building, as Richard Tyne rightly says. This was there "just in case", and it was only used once or twice a year as part of the usual military exercises.
I remember these exercises as particularly pleasant because most BMH staff (including the sergeant in charge of us civilians) disappeared behind the thick bunker doors for hours, sealed off from the outer world - which meant leisure time for the rest of us, e.g. enjoying the extra cup of tea in the TocH, sunbathing on the roof of the main building, from where you had spectacular views over neighbouring Olympic Stadium or the skyline of Berlin. Those were the days ...
Dr. Christian H. Freitag
Qaranc.co.uk would like to thank Dr. Christian H. Freitag for the photograph of BMH Berlin at the top of this page and of the two hospital bunker photos. The signs inscriptions can still be seen on the corridor walls and read Wards 1 2, Theatres, Reception, Command Post and Ward 1 Command Post Male Staff.
I was in the Intelligence Corps in 1961 serving with a small army unit at RAF Gatow, Berlin. My wife and I lived in Charlottenburg and our daughter, Susan, was born at BMH Berlin on 29th September 1961. She owed her life to the close attention of the Queen Alexandra nurses, as the umbilical cord became wrapped round her neck in the course of labour. She was delivered by Caesarean section ( Kaiserschnitt!) by Major Shaw, obstetrician. Don Alexander
I also remember BMH Berlin, the sub-basement hospital-bunker was used by the stag guard whenever Hess was in for treatment, it was an arduous gig, with 18 hours on, 6 off, sleeping in the basement.
It was also used as a base for medivac exercises, the Doctors and Nurses making-up the wounds and injuries using surplus store clothing which could be cut, ripped and burnt. The troops - usually borrowed from the infantry - were given a broken arm, smashed-up face or asphyxia make-up, internal bleeding 'grey' etc...and sent to the 'battle field' in out-going ambulances, snuck into the scenario, treated with first-aid and sent back (often in the same ambulance! After it had gone round the corner to join the 'front end' of the exercise).
On the occasion I took part we worked out that if they gave me a pair of very large combat trousers I could fold my leg up inside, they then cut the leg at the knee, put a pink plasticine 'crater' over the knee, ran a catheter tube from the knee to a blood-bag at my waist/belly, stuck some bits of smashed bone and bacon in the plasticine, smeared it with a maroon gelly, blocked the catheter with a bit of goo and liberally coated the area in red ink before sending me out in the ambulance.
When we got to Ruleben Fighting City, I was carried into the back of one of the buildings (I couldn't walk very well and they wanted the wound to stay intact and laid out on the floor, a thunder flash was set off and I was told to keep screaming until I got in the ambulance, and start screaming again when we got back to BHM!
Medics ran in, saw the blood spurting from my missing leg and momentarily thought I was a 'No Duff'! dealt with me - Tourniquet and then ignored me while they dealt with the more complicated/serious stuff. By the time they got me and another amputee (arm) on stretchers the last ambulance (we had Unimogs in BB) had left so they chucked us both in the back of an open-topped Lanny.
Just after we turned off the Heerstrasse and were curling round the side of the Olympia Stadion my weight shifted or my arm fell across my stomach or something, anyway the catheter started pumping the dregs of the blood-bag which spread out the back in the slipstream and a young German woman following us in a silver VW crashed into the line of parked cars beside the stadium, whether it was due to blood on the windscreen or shock at what she 'thought' she'd seen we never knew as the medics had worked out what was happening and high-tailed it round to the hospital and shot down the ramp!
I also had 4 wisdom teeth extracted in one go under 'general' at BMH Berlin and was in and out in less than 24 hours. Hugh Walter, late 1 Glosters, Berlin Brigade 1986 - 1988.
I worked as a civilian at the BMH in Berlin in about 1971 working under Sgt Major Ray Martello whose senior officer was Major Saxton. It was a twelve storey hospital - six up and six down - which hopefully would virtually never be used. I understood that the holdout period for West Berlin was set at about 48hours whilst the expected time for the Russians to reach the Channel Ports was 36hours.
I was employed to work with German Staff of the Personnel Civilian Labour unit - I worked as a "Hygiene Control Officer" with one Rembert "Hans" Pallaske - a German Stalingrad veteran (Panzer driver). The secretaries in my group were Frau Mommert - an English woman married to a German- and Frau Ilse Winkler. I worked there for a year, during which we caught one rat!
We had a Land Rover and driver every day and went everywhere in the British sector including the observation post in the Reichstag, Spandau Prison which did a very good breakfast, Montgomery Base where we nearly set fire to the Ammo dump by mistake when killing a wasp nest . Hans filled the hole up with kerosene and was about to throw in a match when the MPs stopped us and took us inside to see what the "hill" actually was. We also went to Villa Lemm and all over the Olympic Stadium HQ - I kept a record of the number of ducks in the small outside swimming pool near the diving pool - I was bored. We drove there every day for six weeks to count them - no-one asked why I kept a duck ledger!
My co-workers brother drove a Beer truck in Berlin "Berliner Kindl". he had been on Hitler’s Chancellery Guard and met Hitler every day for some eighteen months. Sometimes I went across the Wall at Friedrichstrasse to see Berliner Ensemble Productions. I used to do little dances in the back of the Land Rover to see if I could make the Russian contingent in their Soviet Microbus smile. They never changed their expression for a moment, even at Checkpoint Charlie when my English girlfriend wasn’t too polite to the border guard inspecting the car - She was terrible at borders! Phil Clarke
The most infamous patient at BMH Berlin was the deputy leader to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party Walter Richard Rudolf Hess who was captured during a flight to Scotland in May 1941 at the height of World War Two. He was tried at the Nuremberg Trials and sentenced to life imprisonment and was imprisoned at nearby Spandau Prison. During periods of ill health he was admitted to BMH Berlin where an entire floor would be shut off and secured for his treatment.
In her book Tales of a Lady in Grey with a Touch of Scarlet Lt Col Rosemary Sutton remembers the nursing by QAs of Rudolph Hess.
Double Standards: The Rudolf Hess Cover-Up describes his care at BMH Berlin and describes the ‘Hess Suite’ on the third floor with steel shutters and a private lift. It reveals his medical conditions as ranging from prostate problems through to dementia. It reveals the codewords of Paradox and Xerox that were used for emergencies.
He was also kept as a prisoner under escort in Drymen Military Hospital Buchanan Castle Scotland for several days after he landed in Britain.
Rudolf Hess died on the 17 August 1987 by suicide at Spandau Prison. He asphyxiated himself with a cord attached to a window latch in a summer house within the prison. He was aged 93 years. He was called prisoner number seven of the Nuremberg Trials.
Another British Military Hospital connection with Rudolph Hess was when his aircraft crashed in Britain which led to his capture. This was near Eaglesham in Renfrewshire Scotland. There was a temporarily emergency hospital for the services here and the servicemen patients went to the downed aeroplane and collected souvenirs. There is a photograph in the collection of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow showing some British army patients placing the swastika from the plane wreckage onto their barrack block wall. This hospital was formerly the Mearnskirk tuberculosis convalescence hospital and after the war and the last Navy patients left in 1946 the hospital returned to its original function though as the incidence of tuberculosis reduced the building and staff turned to other specialities such as the care of patients with polio and then elderly care.
Photographs of BMH Berlin
The photograph below is how BMH Berlin looks now. It is a the cardiac treatment centre for Berlin, The Paulinenkrankenhaus. See www.paulinenkrankenhaus.de
View more Photographs of Berlin at
Do you know the address for BMH Berlin or have directions to get to BMH Berlin? If so please contact QARANC.co.uk so that we can add this info to the page. Thank you!
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