Hospital Bags

Lady Olive Crofton Smith-Dorrien, the wife of General Sir Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien, devised the scheme of the Hospital Bag Fund during the First World War.

Upon admission to hospital, soldiers’ possessions were traditionally placed under their pillows or on the floor beside their beds; a system which in the hustle and bustle of hospital life often resulted in the scattering or loss of belongings.

Lady Smith-Dorrien addressed this widespread problem with the invention of a simple drawstring bag.  Anyone wishing to make a bag could apply for the fabric, a sample bag and instructions. Volunteers could also use their own fabric and official advice recommended the use of ‘the prettiest’ of materials. Floral bags were particularly popular and made a cheery contrast to the muted Khaki uniform.

In 1916 Lady Smith-Dorrien’s services were recognised by her creation as a D.B.E. It was estimated that by the end of the war more than five million hospital bags had been made and distributed. Their nickname ‘treasure bags’ indicates the regard with which they were held, a colourful keepsake in the bleakest of times.

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