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Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital Millbank
Information about the Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital (QAMH) in Millbank, London
Photo courtesy of Alexandra Edwards (nee Rainey) from the collection of Warrant Officer K. Sumner RAMC, of RAMC College, Millbank.
The Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital Millbank (QAMH) opened in July 1905. It was situated by the River Thames in SW1 London adjacent to the Tate Gallery. As with other military hospitals built in this era it was constructed to the Nightingale pattern.
Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital Millbank was officially opened by King Edward VII and his wife Queen Alexandra, the President of the QAs cited in the book Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps (Famous Regts. S) by Juliet Piggott).
One of the first Matrons at the QAMH Millbank was Dame Maud McCarthy.
The book Sub Cruce Candida: A Celebration of One Hundred Years of Army Nursing has a photograph of one of the wards at Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital, Millbank, London ready for inspection by the Matron.
War Surgery 1914-18 (Helion Studies in Military History) discusses the specialist in charge of the X-ray and electro-medical units at QAMH Millbank as being Dalziel B. McGrigor from Aberdeen. He qualified in medicine there in 1907 and joined the RAMC in the same year. His radiology training took place in India. He went on to lecture at the Royal Army Medical College Millbank and served in France during World War One where he led No. 1 Field X-ray Section with the Indian Expeditionary Force.
The following two photographs, kindly provided by Phillip Sear, are from his grandfather’s collection. They were taken in 1917-1918 when he was a patient at Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital Millbank in WW1. His collection also has photos of other officers and staff taken in Ward C of QAMH and includes one of the soldiers playing bridge. Written on the photos of at Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital Millbank are photos taken 1917-18 by Robin Clutton and friends, Lt Fell, Machine Gun Corps, Robin Clutton Lieut. Roland RFA, Lieut. Elliott, RFA, A Bridge party, Ward C, Lieut. Maxwell, 1st Irish Guards and Lieut. Myers, Royal Fusiliers. The full collection can be found at flickr.com
Millions Like Us: Women's Lives in War and Peace 1939-1949 has accounts from the war diary of QA Lorna Bradey whose pre war posting was at Millbank Military Hospital. An extract reads:
In the main they never swore or were familiar with us, and it was born then, my admiration of the British Soldier. I was to spend many years trying to save his life, comfort him and make his dying more bearable. There were to be some terrible years ahead.
From Hell Island To Hay Fever cites the evacuation of the hospital to Watford during WW2, prior to May 1941.
During World War Two the Muster point for Number 3 British General Hospital (BGH) was at Millbank and their destination was Offranville (cited in Quiet Heroines: Nurses of the Second World War) by Brenda McBryde.
It was also the muster point for those going to the Far East and more can be read in Joyce's War - The Second World War Journal of a Queen Alexandra Nurse.
The wards of the QAMH were named after RAMC holders of the Victoria Cross. For example this included the Martin Leake Ward for senior officers.
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Millbank Hospital Kitchen Photo
The Millbank Hospital kitchen photo below shows the staff of the Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital Millbank kitchens. The lady on the right of the photograph is Elizabeth Floodgate (nee Axten) who was a cook.
Her grandson recalls a humorous family story which tells of her carrying a pot of custard from the kitchen to a ward and bumped, quite literally, into the King who was visiting!
Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital Millbank closed as a Military Hospital in the 1970s and some staff were to work at the soon to be opened QEMH Woolwich. Others like Royal Victoria Military Hospital Netley closed at the same time, though some remained open as a Medical Reception Station. These in operation as an MRS were Colchester Military Hospital and Tidworth Military Hospital.
The book Sub Cruce Candida: A Celebration of One Hundred Years of Army Nursing cites the date of the closure of Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital Millbank being the 2 April 1977.
The QAMH became a training facility for Laboratory Technicians (Lab Techs) and Doctors for the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) until training moved to Portsmouth.
The Tate Gallery hoped to purchase these Grade I and II listed buildings and they were eventually sold off to the Chelsea College of Art and Design with the site being handed over in 2000.
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If you would like to contribute to this page, suggest changes or inclusions to this website or would like to send me a photograph then please e-mail me.
George Wright (RAMC) has been kind enough to research what was on the site of the former QAMH and share his memories:
The actual hospital site itself now forms part of Tate Britain while the part that housed the Chelsea College of Art and Design was in fact the fine Royal Army Medical College (where I trained as a Lab Tech from 1970-72 before being appointed to QAMH, and which served not only as the training establishment for doctors but as the Officer's Mess for the RAMC/RADC stationed at the Millbank complex).
According to the map on the current Tate Britain website however it looks as if at least part of that property may have reverted to the Tate, or been removed to allow for the Atterbury building. It is difficult to tell from the scale but alternatively it is just possible that the Atterbury replaces Millbank Barracks, which is where I and other RAMC and male ORs (cooks, drivers etc) lived. As far as I could detect when I last went to the site in around 2004 the only part of the Millbank complex which was still more or less intact was the QARANC quarters further down John Islip Street (at the side of the hospital). I am now disabled and unable to get around much, so can't help as to the continued existence or otherwise of that equally impressive (if somewhat austere) building.
As far as memories go, perhaps the fondest one I have is of the QA Major in charge of Martin Leake Ward, which was the ward reserved for senior officers (Generals and above). If I recall right all - or at least most of - the wards were named after RAMC holders of the Victoria Cross. Anyway once I was beeped by the Consultant Pathologist (a full Colonel) as he was having difficulty taking blood from someone on the senior officer ward. It was normal for senior staff to work there. When I arrived I found myself in the presence of (retired) Field Marshal Montgomery and, under the ward Sister's close supervision, and the Colonel's slightly amused oversight, was allowed to take blood from the great man. Field Marshal Montgomery complimented me on my skill, saying he was always a bit scared of needles but hadn't felt a thing and found my manner reassuring and helpful. He more or less ordered the Colonel to ensure that I always took his blood in future, and suggested the same should apply to all who came on the ward.
Although the ward Sister still frightened me to death and always insisted I present myself to her for inspection before seeing a patient, she took Viscount Montgomery at his word and always asked for me to attend her patients. Eventually she would offer me coffee after I had performed whatever task was necessary. After the army, I went on to become a psychologist. George M Wright.
Mill Bank held a memorial tablet to the matrons, sisters and nurses of the military nursing services. This included members of the QAIMNS (Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service), the Reserves (QAIMNSR) and TANS (Territorial Army Nursing Service).
This marble memorial plaque was unveiled by Field Marshal Sir William Slim the CIGS. The memorial plaque was dedicated by the Chaplain General in the Millbank Chapel in 1949 (cited in the book Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps (Famous Regts. S) by Juliet Piggott).
It was situated in the North West corner of the Chapel of the Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital Millbank.
The 33 names on the memorial span death dates from 1924 to 1934 but we are unsure why some of the names are on the memorial since many of the Sisters did not serve in France during the Great War and few named died in service. There is a high proportion of Matrons, so there must have been strong selection from amongst the 9000 plus QAs who served in WW1. Not all were recipients of the RRC. It is thought that it could have been a gift of the Matron-in-Chief, in recognition of generally outstanding service. Of the 33, 29 were QAIMNS, 1 QAIMNS(R) (Buchanan), 2 QAMFNS (Christophersen and Tyndall), 1 ANS (Jeffcott). 17 had RRC, 1 ARRC, 1 MM (Matron Tunley), 1 MBE (Todd).
When the QAMH was decommissioned it was moved to QEMH Woolwich and then to the Aldershot Garrison Church when the QEMH closed. A rededication service was held at the Aldershot Garrison Church in 1989 for the plaques.
With thanks to Paul White, WO2 Williams at Deepcut and the Padre of Aldershot Garrison Church for researching the location of the plaque, the photography, and adding to the information about its history.
There are more photos of the Aldershot Garisson Church memorials to QAs on the War Graves Memorials Nurses page.
QA Memorial Window to Florence Nightingale
The book Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps (Famous Regts. S) by Juliet Piggott discusses the QA Memorial Window to Florence Nightingale that members of the QAIMNS had subscribed too so that it could be place in the QAMH Millbank Chapel. Funds were raised by members of the QAs and through private donations.
Unfortunately the design was not officially approved by the designers of the Millbank Chapel. So instead a stained glass window depicted the scene of the Ascension of Jesus Christ and the three women finding his empty tomb was placed instead. This was later to be moved to the QEMH Woolwich Chapel when the QAMH closed. The book describes some of the correspondence between the Matron in Chief Miss Becher and officers of the RAMC regarding the storage of the QA Memorial Window to Florence Nightingale.
If you would like to add any information to this page, share your memories or send me a picture or photograph of Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital MillBank then please contact me.
A reader is trying to find the location of the graves of nurses buried at Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital Millbank. Her aunt, an Army Major called Eileen Bourne Connor was buried there in July 1963 according to her death record from the GRO (General Register Office) but her niece cannot find any reference to a cemetery there. She has checked at the Brookwood Cemetery, but it seems to have only a few nurses, and those from WWI. Her aunt was a serving officer at the time of her death, but her cause of death was unrelated to her service. Does any readers know if there are still graves at the old site of the Millbank Hospital or were they transferred elsewhere when the hospital was closed? Any information or ideas of where else to look would be gratefully accepted as she plans a trip to England this coming autumn and would like to pay her respects at her Aunt's grave.
The death certificate for Major Connor states that she died on the 11 July 1963 at the Queen Alexandra Military Hospital, Westminster, at the time "of military hospital Catherine Camp, Major Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corps". The informant was "D.A. Watson Causing the body to be buried Queen Alexandra Military Hospital ?.W.1".
If you can help please contact Qaranc.co.uk
See also the Royal Army Medical College Millbank page.
Friends of Milbank
Friends of Millbank are a group with an interest in military medical history with the history of the Millbank site, namely the Queen Alexandra Military Hospital, No. 18 Company RAMC and the Royal Army Medical College. The Friends meet in the former Officers’ Mess and lectures on medical history takes place in the lecture theatre. All are welcome to attend. For more information visit the Friends of Millbank web site at www.friendsofmillbank.org
Bernard recalls going there for an operation:
I was a patient in 1975 for a couple of days having an impacted wisdom tooth removed. I was operated on by a USAF Colonel who was on an exchange visit.
On arrival at the gate the place seemed like a film set with Guards and officers with British Army uniforms of every description all over the place. After finding my way in I was met with a massive framed picture of I think Florence Nightingale? Underneath which was a very large table at which a WRAC private was sat. After showing her my paperwork, I was shown to a ward down a corridor on my right and then to a ward on the right again all painted a light green colour. I was shown to a bed and left more or less to my own devices along with about ten other lads that drifted in over the next few hours who were all on the ward for the same operation.
After a very short briefing by an NCO we just filled in the required paperwork and then watched TV until tea time when we had a very light tea. I recall we were all starving going to bed early that night and being told not to order large meals on the pink form for tomorrow.
Next day was Matron’s Inspection so we just sat on the bed in our shreddies and that was that, until they came around with the Pre-med. After a while, it was my turn to go to theatre so I got on the trolley to be wheeled down the corridor and on arrival at the Theatre we were told they weren’t ready for me, so back to the ward I was trolleyed getting higher on the drugs given every minute. After a while I was once again wheeled down and into the small room where I was given an injection and told to count down from ten. I think I only got to eight? I do remember waking up in the theatre for a split second before going out again.
I was the first to wake up on the ward with a thirst that the Thames couldn’t quench. I got up and asked a SSgt if I could get a drink. He advised me not to, but my mouth was that dry it hurt so one small glass of orange later I got a second dose of anaesthetic and puked into a bowl. The SSgt held me in his hands whilst my legs abandoned me. Even when totally intoxicated on alcohol I was able to walk, but this was a new experience.
After a few hours bedrest the meal I previously ordered had been replaced with a boiled egg and toast! I was still starving and really welcomed tea that evening. After another noisy night of my room mates snoring and an early breakfast, I was released to make my way back to Euston Station and the train to Northampton and transport to Simpson Bks then straight into my pit as I felt exhausted where upon I picked out pieces of bone from my lower jaw and gum which apparently had been smashed by the surgeon with a hammer and chisel. And it was back to work the next day! Bernard Fox Ex RPC
Tate Ghost - sightings of an old lady ghost that haunted the area that was an officers' ward and later a married quarters.
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