Soldiers' hospital uniform


Book Reviewer
I can dimly remember visiting my uncle in Netley hospital in 1940. What stuck in my mind apart from the stop-me-and-buy-one ice cream tricycle was the bright blue suits with red neckties worn by the soldier patients. I have later come to suspect that this was to allow the walking ones some freedom without the likelihood that they would go AWOL - but WHEN?

This qn has been sparked by looking at pictures of a local temporary WW1 hospital with its female nursing staff and male patients grouped outside. One is dated 1914 and the men are wearing ordinary khaki. Another shows the men wearing the rig I describe. The question is when was this hospital dress introduced? The hospital was closed in 1919.
I don't know when it was started, but they were being worn very early in the war (at least in Nov 1914) and the practice continued until circa 1950 (well before my time but I had a relative who wore them at Royal Herbert Hospital, Woolwich at that time)

They were referred to as 'Hospital Blues' I did read somewhere that were supplied (via the Red Cross, presumably) for wear by British POWs in Germany during the First World War.

As for your post re missing from the last 50, a similar thing happened to me on the Gurkha forum with this one:
The uniform was used at Edmonton Military Hospital during WW1.

World War One: wounded soldiers and the Edmonton Military Hospital

Could the uniforms have been of a style donated by The Red Cross? The following advert seems to suggest it:

A letter to the Guardian in November 1914 illustrates the voluntary nature of these Red Cross auxiliary hospitals. Lady Donner of Oak Drive in Fallowfield was a member of the Fallowfield Red Cross branch and her letter appealed for any suitable materials for the Fairview hospital, viz;
'As we earnestly desire the hospital to be suitably equipped and adequately maintained, we appeal to the charitable public for donations of money, and especially the following articles:—
1. Surgical dressings, including lint, cotton wool, gauze, jaeconet, and bandages.
2. Enamelled ware - suitable for dressing and nursing- purposes.
3. Bed-rests, rubber water-bottles, wheel chairs. Bath-chair.
4. An operating-table.
5. Hospital suits, bedroom slippers, and pocket-handkerchiefs.
6. Brushes and combs, sponges, nail brushes tooth brushes, tooth paste or powder, and soap.
7. Tobacco, pipes, cigarettes, newspapers, illustrated magazines, chocolate, fruit, etc.
8. All foodstuffs.
Cheques and money will be gratefully acknowledged by the hon. treasurer, Fern Lea Wilmslow Road. Fallowfield, and any of the above articles will be received by Quartermaster Renshaw at the hospital.’

Rusholme Military Hospitals, 1914 - 1918 | Rusholme & Victoria Park Archive

Totally unrelated, I found this:

A specialist venereal disease hospital for 47 officers and 430 men was also established at Hilsea.
The military hospitals in Great Britain in 1914-1918

Dirty, dirty, dirty.


Book Reviewer
According to the chap on this blog: cannycrafter: October 2011 patients themselves were referred to as "hospital Blues' after the uniform.

I think this actually dates back to the post Crimea War era and may have been still in use up to the 1960s, although the design naturally enough altered. I also believe that blue arm bands were handed out during WW1.





One website comes up with the following

My understanding is that Hospital Blues were first issued during the Crimean War and arose from the public outcry engendered by William Howard Russell's dispatches that brought attention to the suffering of the wounded. This is turn attracted Queen Victoria's attention and before long the special blue uniforms were issued and a large military hospital built at Netley, Southampton, for the better treatment of the wounded. The uniforms were the same blue flannel, lined in white that served their purpose throughout the Boer War, WW1, WW2, Korea and as late as the 1960s, when they were finally withdrawn and replaced by issue striped pyjamas and dressing gowns, but on a much smaller scale. These latter have also since been withdrawn (along with the military hospitals). If you look you can see that the later pattern appears to be just a cropped version (as in coat cut into a jacket) of the original. There were few sizes and most men had to turn up trouser cuffs to fit. The lapels were originally designed to be fastened at the neck and so when turned back for the white shirt and red tie also showed a portion of white lining.
Hospital Blues - Uniforms & Cap Badges - Great War Forum

There's also a very good account here:

The ‘Convalescent Blues’ in Frederick Cayley Robinson’s ‘Acts of Mercy’ | Wellcome Library


Book Reviewer
Thanks, chaps, I knew ARRSE would come up trumps.
My Grandfather spent his hospital time dressed in black and white striped PJ's, but he was in a German hospital.

Once repatriated due to the severity of his wounds, he somehow made a remarkable recovery and was soon back to take part in the D-Day landings.
My Grandfather spent his hospital time dressed in black and white striped PJ's, but he was in a German hospital.

Once repatriated due to the severity of his wounds, he somehow made a remarkable recovery and was soon back to take part in the D-Day landings.
Good on your grandfather of course, but it would be a breach of the Geneva Convention.

(Not that it's one that would likely be discovered. But it's interesting to speculate what might have happened were he to be taken prisoner again and found out)


Book Reviewer
Old?? He is so old that when God said "Let there be light" he was the duty sparky.

He didn't know Nelson but his Dad was alright

etc etc etc
I have a vague memory (only 10yrs old at the time) of Military Hospital patients in Osnabruck walking-out wearing the standard BD (in walking-out mode, with shoes, no gaiters) - and white shirts with red knitted ties. It was quite a smart-looking rig, as I recall. This was in 1957.

In the 1950s troop ships were required to carry 6 blue jackets for the use of venereal patients. Not sure if this was for humiliation or to warn the sailors.

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