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A century ago, on 22 March 1916, a hospital was opened in the grounds of St Fagans Castle – one of the hundreds of auxiliary hospitals set up by the Red Cross during the First World War.

Before the war the Red Cross had joined with the Order of St John’s to establish the Voluntary Aid Detachment Scheme (VAD). The aim of the scheme was to provide training for volunteers to assist the military hospitals in the event of war. Here, at St Fagans in 1909 the first detachment (VAD) in Wales was established with many others following soon after.

The Countess of Plymouth from St Fagans Castle was the President of the Glamorgan branch of the Red Cross and was instrumental in the progress of the society in the county. It was the Countess and her husband, the Earl of Plymouth, who offered the Castle gardens and grounds for hosting the VAD recruitment and training days. They later gave the Banqueting Hall over to the Red Cross to be used as an auxiliary hospital. The Hall had been originally built to host social and family celebrations but the large building with its extensive gardens was suitable for housing a small hospital.

It was the Plymouth’s who contributed to the majority of the necessary refurbishment. The hospital opened with 30 beds but within a few weeks another 10 beds were added. A year later, in 1917, the hospital had 70 beds including a new extension and sanitary wing.

Most of the nurses in the auxiliary hospitals were volunteers and members of the Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment. Each hospital had some professional staff too; a Commandant, a Quartermaster and a Sister-in-Charge. At St Fagans Hospital, most of the women were local, some of whom were in the service of the Plymouth family at the Castle.

Auxiliary hospitals assisted the larger hospitals and didn’t have the facilities to nurse severely injured soldiers. Many of the patients at St Fagans were transferred from the 3rd General Western Hospital in Cardiff, others were sent directly from the front line. We can’t begin to imagine how the soldiers had suffered before coming here to St Fagans. A century on, it brings comfort that this hospital would have once been a haven for many to begin to heal the physical and mental scars of war.

Twitter: #Hospital100 #Ysbyty100


Sioned Williams

Principal Curator: Modern History
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Anthony Hughes
11 April 2018, 17:15
Hello Sioned - thanks for taking my call earlier. Here's the link I mentioned to you - you'll see why I thought the nurse's hat interesting. If you find anything else, it would be great if you could let me know.



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